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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Walter Baldock Durrant Mantell   3 April [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

April 3d.

My dear Sir

When I saw you in London, you were so kind as to say that I might remind you about the note & sketch, which you said you would give me, on the position,, Latitude, approximate size, height above sea, & degree of separation by valleys from any higher land, &c, of the quartz boulders, which you saw in New Zealand;2 & likewise on the icebergs with fragments of rock, which you saw in the southern Ocean.— I am really most anxious to hear about these, whenever it may be most convenient to you to spare the time; though I fear that you will think me a very troublesome person.—

I am tempted to put 2 or 3 other questions, if you will be so kind as to answer them, if in your power, on a separate piece of paper & you can write answers at foot. These questions you will think very ridiculous ones; but they all bear in some degree on the origin & history of the cultivation of plants, & domestication of animals.—3

With hopes, that you will forgive me I remain | My dear Sir | Your’s sincerely | Charles Darwin


Information referred to in this letter and the letter to W. B. D. Mantell, 10 April [1856], was included in the chapter on geographical distribution in Natural selection, the first draft of which was completed in July 1856 (see Natural selection, pp. 532–4). Mantell was in England between 1856 and 1859.
See Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. B. D. Mantell, 17 November 1854, in which CD asked whether there were erratic boulders in New Zealand. In Natural selection, p. 546, CD noted: ‘ Mr. W. Mantell has shown me sketches of great fragments of quartz, lying on tertiary strata, which probably are erratic boulders’. CD was anxious to establish that New Zealand, as other countries, had experienced glaciation so that he could postulate a worldwide cool period to explain the distribution of recent animals and plants. See Natural selection, pp. 544–57, and letter to C. J. F. Bunbury, 21 April [1856].
CD’s questions and Mantell’s answers have not been found, but see letter to W. B. D. Mantell, 10 April [1856]. In Variation 2: 161 n. 65, CD stated: ‘the New Zealanders, as Mr. Mantell informs me, kept various kinds of birds.’


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Reminds WBDM of his promise of information about the quartz boulders and an iceberg with fragment of rock seen in southern ocean.

Sends other questions [on separate sheet (missing)] which WBDM will think ridiculous, but all bear on plants and animals under domestication.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Walter Baldock Durrant Mantell
Sent from
Source of text
Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand (Mantell papers, MS-Papers-0083-268)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1848,” accessed on 30 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6