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Darwin Correspondence Project

To S. P. Woodward   5 June [1861]1

June 5th

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.My dear Sir

Thank you for your pleasant note.2 Your nearest station is Bromley, or you would save 12 mile by going on to Bickley; but then by leaving London Bridge at 9o .10 or 12o .30 you find Buss at Bromley which would bring you to Keston some 312 miles on road.— Bromley to Knockht Beeches 912 miles.—3

Road through Keston, Down Cudham, much helped by footpaths.— But surely this wd be too great an exertion for you: you can beat me, I could not walk 4 miles hardly to save my life.—

We shd. be very happy to see you here for the day, but we have no attractions, & there are no Downs anywhere, & no O. fusca; we have some fly O. & some Bee O. but I have not yet seen latter.—4

But here is a puzzle, we had fixed positively all to start for Torquay on 10th.— Some Business in hand may interfere & at present I have no guess whether we shall be able to start on that day.—5 If you like to chance a visit we shd be delighted to see you; but we may be all in confusion in packing up our whole household for move on Wednesday.—6

I agree about colonisation of Arctic regions,7 but in some respects it seems to me a very perplexing question.

I fancied that the land-shells which I collected at St. Helena, from their position had quite recently become embedded & extinct.—8 I believe my shells are at Geolog. Soc.—9

I want to beg a favour, if Dr. Günther is in London, to get him to give me a note, or reference to any paper, on the Silurus escaping from the Danube.10 How was it ascertained?— Pray forgive haste, I have much to write this afternoon.—

I heartily wish your Boys & self a pleasant excursion whether they come into this part or not.— If you come cross Holwood Park by footpath— very pretty.—11

Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

I just see by starting from Victoria St. by London Chatham & Dover R. you can go to St. Mary’s Cray & then you would be 612 miles from Knockholt beeches— Below Knockholt lies Chevening Park—rather striking—12


The year is given by the reference to the planned visit to Torquay (see n. 5, below).
The letter from Woodward has not been found. He was an assistant in the geology department of the British Museum.
From the letter it appears that Woodward had proposed to visit CD in Down en route to Knockholt, Kent, near which is located the landmark known as the Knockholt Beeches, a ‘remarkably fine’ clump of old trees on the high ground of a chalk plateau (Victoria history of the county of Kent 1: 478). Knockholt is several miles south-east of Down.
According to the Victoria history of the county of Kent 1: 64, ‘no British county excels Kent in the number of its orchids’. CD had examined the fly orchis, Ophrys muscifera, and the bee orchis, O. apifera, for his study of their pollinating mechanisms.
Negotiations were being conducted to secure William Erasmus Darwin a partnership in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank, Southampton (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 6 [June 1861).
In the event, the Darwins postponed their departure for Torquay and remained at Down until the end of June (see ‘Journal’; Appendix II).
For CD’s views on ‘colonisation’ and the migration of species through the Arctic before and during the glacial period, see Origin, pp. 365–82.
CD believed that the land molluscs of St Helena had become extinct as a result of deforestation during the preceding century (see Journal of researches 2d ed., p. 488).
The location of the fossil shells collected by CD during the Beagle voyage is undetermined (see Porter 1985, pp. 996–7).
Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf Günther, employed by the British Museum, was preparing a catalogue of the freshwater fish in the museum’s collection (Günther 1859–70). Silurus is a genus of Eurasian catfishes. Woodward complied with CD’s request. See letter from A. C. L. G. Günther to S. P. Woodward, 14 June 1861.
Holwood Park, near Bromley, Kent, was the seat of Robert Monsey Rolfe, Baron Cranworth.
Chevening, the family seat of Philip Henry Stanhope, is a few miles north-west of Sevenoaks, Kent.


Günther, Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf. 1859–70. Catalogue of acanthopterygian fishes in the collection of the British Museum. 8 vols. London: by order of the Trustees.

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

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.

Page, William, ed. 1908. The Victoria history of the county of Kent, vol. 1. London: Archibald Constable.

Porter, Duncan M. 1985. The Beagle collector and his collections. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).


Gives directions to Down. Would be happy to see SPW but regrets they "have no attractions".

Agrees about colonisation of Arctic region.

CD thought that his St Helena land shells had quite recently become embedded; his specimens are at the Geological Society.

Can SPW ask A. Günther for any references to Silurus escaping from the Danube?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Samuel Pickworth Woodward
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add MS 42579: 230–32b)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3043,” accessed on 13 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9