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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Lubbock   [November 1858]1


Sunday morning

Dear Lubbock

I am sorry that I was out when you called yesterday,—a rare event for me.— I think your abstract quite excellent & perfectly clear.—2 Many of your remarks strike me as very curious.— In one case I doubted for a minute whether your remark was general or applied to last-named insect, & I have marked place with pencil & I think in 2 or 3 other places, the same doubt might occur, so I think you had better read it over, remembering that ignorant readers will blunder if possible.— For ignoramus, like myself I wish you would in parentheses make clear what is macula germativa as distinct from germinal vesicle.3 Are you sure that Aphides do occur in Tropics; incidentally from Lund, it appears that they do not occur in tropical Brazil.4

I congratulate you heartily on producing so profound & philosophical a memoir.—5

Yours most truly | C. Darwin

P.S. Will you tell Sir John that I did not answer his note about my wells, because I received a message that Parslow’s answers had sufficed.6 I remember reading several years ago a good paper, I think in Geological Journal, (author’s name forgotten) on level of water in Chalk N. of London, & the Author showed that the line of height of water at different points formed a rather steep slope—that it might be compared to a river slowly oozing or flowing through the chalk; & he showed that wet weather did not affect the level at any one point, till, I think, nearly six months after-wards.—7

C. Darwin

The author was connected with Paper-mills & had made many very careful observations.

I quite forgot to thank you about Sir C. Nicholson’s letter on Bees: it will not do to quote, which I am very sorry for.8 I had thougt of Partridges.—9


Dated by CD’s reference to an abstract written by Lubbock. Lubbock read the paper (Lubbock 1859) at a meeting of the Royal Society on 9 December 1858, but it was received on 10 November. The abstract was presumably composed at approximately the same time.
CD refers to a manuscript version of Lubbock’s abstract of his paper. The abstract was printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 9 (1857–9): 574–83.
In the printed abstract, Lubbock stated that the macula germinativa ‘is in fact the nucleus of the germinal vesicle’. The change indicates that the abstract was revised following CD’s suggestion (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 9 (1857–9): 577).
Lund 1831. A note on this work in DAR 205.11: 54 includes this information. Lubbock had suggested that in cold or mountainous regions, aphids would always be oviparous, while in tropical regions they would be naturally viviparous throughout the year (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 9 (1857–9): 583). CD’s comment was not incorporated into the abstract.
Lubbock introduced his full paper, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Lubbock 1859), with a historical account of the recent research on asexual generation in nature. Since many of the known cases were from insects, he intended to review the process of egg-cell formation in the Insecta. Lubbock had been elected FRS in June 1858 on the basis of his earlier work (Lubbock 1857b) on this problem (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to John Lubbock, [22 November 1857]).
CD and John William Lubbock discussed the height of the water in their wells on several occasions (see letter to J. W. Lubbock, 2 April [1859]). Joseph Parslow was the Darwins’ butler.
The paper has not been identified, but the topics mentioned by CD were discussed in detail in Prestwich 1851.
Probably Charles Nicholson, speaker of the legislative council of New South Wales, who had been knighted in 1852. CD was preparing a paper that discussed the relationship between introduced plants, such as clover, and native species of bees, taking New Zealand as an example. See letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 13 November 1858].
CD thought that seeds might be carried long distances in the dirt adhering to the feet of partridges. See letters to W. E. Darwin, 22 [September 1858], and to T. C. Eyton, 11 October [1858].


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

Lubbock, John. 1859. On the ova and pseudova of Insects. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 149: 341–69. [Vols. 7,9]

Lund, Peter Wilhelm. 1831. Lettre sur les habitudes de quelques fourmis de Brésil. Annales des Sciences Naturelles 23: 113-38.

Prestwich, Joseph. 1851. A geological inquiry respecting the water-bearing strata of the country around London. London.


Praise for abstract of JL’s paper on insects ["On the ova and pseudova of insects", Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 9 (1857–9): 574–83].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Lubbock, 4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 263: 25 (EH 88206474)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2331,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

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