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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Georgina Tollet   1 October [1846?–71]1


Oct 1

My dear Georgina

This morning there was plenty of cobwebs on the K. Garden Hedge,— so many that the children remarked on them; though I have occasionally seen more.— I marked 13 with red worsted. At 12 I passed down the Hedge, & having forgotten all about it, I did not notice one. Then I remembered & returned with Emma as witness; & walking slowly & looking pretty carefully I could see hardly any & began to put faith in your account. When I put my head close into hedge & examined each square foot I could find a good many. But when I came to my marked webs, they were all in statu quo. I tried same thing a week or two ago, with same result.—

I do not know what conclusions you will draw; but I know what audacious conclusions I draw.— Emma, who has so good a heart, says that as when I looked really closely I could see webs everywhere, she thinks you, who are so sharp-sighted, could not have overlooked them before, so that they must have disappeared. I, alas, have not nearly so good a heart.— Anyhow in the 13 webs marked neither spiders or anything else had caused a line to disappear.—

I am very ungrateful not at least to wish to see (,or rather not see) what you saw; as you cheered me so in my work on Species.—2

Pray believe me, yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin


The starting year of the date range is conjectured from its being the earliest date at which CD had two children aged 5 or over, on the assumption that younger children would not have ‘remarked’ on the number of cobwebs. The end year is established from the fact that Georgina Tollet died in the third quarter of 1872 (BMD (Death index)). The reference to ‘the children’ suggests that this letter was probably written earlier rather than later in this range.
Georgina read the manuscript of Origin before it was published (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to John Murray, 5 April [1859]), and may have given CD encouragement earlier. Emma Darwin commented to William Erasmus Darwin in an undated letter, ‘She read a great deal of Papas M.S. & is very useful to him in making him explain things that are not quite clear.’ (DAR 219.1: 33.) No further reference to the disappearance of cobwebs has been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL or in CD’s published works.


Describes results of experiments on cobwebs, "neither spider or anything else had caused a line to disappear". Apologises for having to draw this conclusion as she had cheered him so in his work on species.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Georgina Tollet
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 185: 140
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2499,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18 (Supplement)