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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   [26 April 1858]1

Moor Park, Farnham | Surrey

Monday Night

My dear old Gulielmus

I was very glad to get this morning your note forwarded here from Down.— Your expedition to Kensington seems to have been rather a failure: I wish I had asked you to look out whether there were in the Museum specimens of Papers for Walls; there used to be at Marlborough House.—2

I see at the last meeting of the Royal Soc., Claudet brought forward a wonderful new invention of throwing a pair of stereoscopic figures into a single, magnified one on ground glass, & this image, without any instrument stands out in relief & several people can view it at once.—3

I sent off by today’s post a draft for 50 guines to Mr. Wilson.—4

I have been here since Tuesday: it has not done me so much good hitherto as before, but yet has much rested me: with 2 or 3 exceptions they are a horrid dull set here; but I amuse myself by loitering about the Park, which is very wild & lonely, so just suits me; & everything looks quite beautiful with this lovely weather. There is an exquisite mixture of ancient Scotch Firs & very old mag-nificent Birches.—5 I pass my time chiefly in watching the ants, & I find that though many thousands inhabit each hillock, each seems to know all its comrades, for they pitch unmercifully into a stranger brought from another ant-hill.6

I shall be extremely curious to hear about the Belgiman:7 by wonderful luck there is here an Hungarian exile, who is going back to his country soon, & he promises to observe about stripes in Hungary & to write to me.— I am very tired & stupid, so good night my dear old fellow

Yours affecty | C. Darwin

If you have opportunity read the “Three Chances”— it is very clever, & part very amusing.—8


The Monday after CD’s arrival at Moor Park (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Marlborough House, originally the London residence of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, had for a number of years housed the government’s Museum of Manufactures. In 1857, the museum and the Schools of Art and Design, which were also located there, were moved to new premises in South Kensington, irreverently known as the ‘Brompton Boilers’. A large picture gallery was built next to the relocated Museum of Manufactures to house new acquisitions and bequests, while a collection of Joseph Mallord William Turner’s paintings remained at Marlborough House until 1861 (Weinreb and Hibbert eds. 1983).
Antoine François Jean Claudet had demonstrated his technique for creating stereoscopic photographs at a meeting of the Royal Society on 10 March 1858 (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 9 (1857–9): 194–6). William Darwin was a keen amateur photographer (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. E. Darwin, [before 11 September 1857]).
William Greive Wilson was William Darwin’s tutor, with whom he was living. The payment of 50 guineas was entered in CD’s Account book (Down House MS) and dated 30 April 1858. CD probably made the entry after his return from Moor Park on 4 May and forgot the exact date on which he had sent the money draft.
Moor Park had formerly been the residence of William Temple; the grounds were subsequently remodelled by Lancelot (‘Capability’) Brown. It possessed a large deer park, fine landscaped grounds, and a well-established plantation of fir trees.
See preceding letter. CD kept a note of his experiments on the recognition of individuals among ant communities (DAR 205.11 (2): 106), which reads in part: I took several times some hill-ants (F. rufa) from their own nest & placed them on another; they were always extremely much agitated & were instantaneously attacked by the inhabitants: whereas when I returned several of the same lots to their own nest, they seemed immediately to recognise their comrades & be recognised by them. The note was marked ‘Ch. 10’, the chapter of CD’s species book on the instincts of animals (see Natural selection, pp. 470–1 and 574–5).
CD had asked William Darwin to look out while he was in Norfolk for cart-horses with dorsal stripes (letter to W. E. Darwin, 11 [February 1858]).


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.


Has been at Moor Park since Tuesday. Is passing his time watching ants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Moor Park
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 24
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2265,” accessed on 13 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7