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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Miss Holland1   [May 1856]2


My dear Miss Holland

Fortunately for my entomological credit, a first-rate Entomologist has been staying with me, to whom I showed the pupa which you sent me, & he says it would turn into one of the Lackey moths, probably the Eriogaster lanestris.—3 Last summer moths & butterflies abounded in an unprecedented degree, & entomologists attribute this abundance, I believe rightly, to the great destruction of birds during the winter previous to that just passed;4 & the scarcity of birds saved many caterpillars which otherwise would have been devoured, & hence the numerous cocoons on your Hawthorn Hedges.—

Emma demands the rest of this note,5 so pray believe me, dear Miss Holland, yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


Miss Holland has not been identified. The Darwins and Wedgwoods were related to the Holland family.
Dated by the reference to Thomas Vernon Wollaston, who visited the Darwins from 25 to 28 April 1856 (Emma Darwin’s diary).
See n. 2, above. In the manuscript, ‘Mr Wollaston’ was interlined in a different hand, possibly Emma Darwin’s, after ‘first-rate Entomologist’ and, in the same hand, ‘Eriogaster lanestris’ was written above CD’s text.
The weather in January and February 1855 had been particularly severe (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. D. Fox, 19 March [1855] and n. 7). CD refers to the large-scale destruction of birds in his garden during that winter in Origin, p. 68.
Emma Darwin’s note has been excised.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


An entomologist who has been staying with CD [T. V. Wollaston] says the pupa she sent would turn into a lackey moth.

Adds that the great destruction of birds in the winter preceding the last is probable cause of survival of caterpillars and resulting numerous cocoons.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Miss Holland
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1861,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

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