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Darwin Correspondence Project

To P. H. Gosse   28 September [1856]

Down Bromley Kent

Sept. 28th

My dear Sir

I thank you warmly for your extremely kind letter1 & for your information about the Bald-Pate, which is quite sufficient.2 When we meet I shall beg to hear the actual coo!

I will by this very post write to Mr Hill,3 & will venture to use your name as an introduction, which I am sure will avail me much; so you need take no trouble on subject, as using your name will be all that I should require.—

With very sincere thanks | Yours truly | C. Darwin

I am very anxious to get all cases of transport of plants or animals to distant islands.— I have been trying the effects of salt-water on the vitality of seeds—their powers of floatation—whether earth sticks to birds feet or base of beak, & I am experimenting whether small seeds are ever enclosed in such earth, &c &.—. Can you remember any facts.— But of all cases whatever, the means of transport, (& such I much think exist) of Land Mollusca utterly puzzle me most.4 I shd. be very grateful for any light.—


The letter has not been found, but see n. 2, below.
See CD’s letter to P. H. Gosse, 22 September [1856]. In Variation 1: 182 n. 8, CD discussed Coenraad Jacob Temminck’s assertion that Columba leucocephala was a true rock pigeon and noted that ‘I am informed by Mr. Gosse that this is an error.’
Richard Hill had assisted Gosse with his books about Jamaica, particularly P. H. Gosse 1847 on the birds of the island. See letters from Richard Hill, 10 January 1857 and 12 March 1857.
CD gave the results of his investigations on the possible means of dispersal of land molluscs in Origin, p. 397. The problem was a ‘puzzle’ because the eggs could not withstand sea-water and yet oceanic islands were always well stocked with land shells. CD eventually concluded that the opercular membrane provided a water-tight seal over the opening of the shell and that hibernating molluscs could be floated across the ocean.


Gosse, Philip Henry. 1847. The birds of Jamaica. London: John Van Voorst.

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.

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


Thanks PHG for information about the bald-pate pigeon.

Will write to Richard Hill.

Can PHG remember any facts relevant to transport of animals and plants to distant islands?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Philip Henry Gosse
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Charnwood Autographs Vol. IV Add MS 70951: 316)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1962,” accessed on 30 September 2023,

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