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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hugh Falconer   23 June 1861

31 Sackville St. W

23 June. 1861

My Dear Darwin

I have been to Adelsberg Cave1—and brought back with me a live Proteus anguinus, designed for you from the moment I got it—i.e. if you have got an aquarium, and would care to have it.2 I only returned last night from the Continent and hearing from your brother, that you are about to go to Torquay, I lose no time in making you the offer.3 The poor dear animal is still alive—although it has had no appreciable means of sustenance for a month—and I am most anxious to get rid of the responsibility of starving it longer. In your hands it will thrive—and have a fair chance of being developed without delay, into some type of the Columbidæ—say a Pouter or a Tumbler.

My Dear Darwin, I have been rambling through the north of Italy, and Germany lately. Every where have I heard your views, and your admirable essay canvassed— the views of course often dissented from, according to the special bias of the speaker—but the work—its honesty of purpose—grandeur of conception—felicity of illustration—and courageous exposition—always referred to in terms of the highest admiration. And among your warmest friends, no one rejoiced more heartily in the just appreciation of Charles Darwin than did,

Yours very truly | H Falconer


This famous stalactite cave, the largest in Europe, is located near the town now known as Postojna, Slovenia.
The blind, colourless, perennibranchiate amphibian Proteus anguinus was first discovered in the Adelsberg cave (EB). CD had mentioned Proteus in Origin as one of several cave animals anomalous in not being related to non-cave-dwelling forms of the same continent and described such animals as ‘wrecks of ancient life’ (Origin, p. 139). He had been challenged in this interpretation by Andrew Murray (see Correspondence vol. 8, letters to Charles Lyell, 10 January [1860], and to Andrew Murray, 5 May [1860]).
The Darwins left for Torquay on 1 July 1861 (see ‘Journal’; Appendix II). CD’s brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin, lived in London.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

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.


Offers CD a live Proteus anguinus from Adelsberg cave. In his hands it will have a fair chance of developing into "some type of Columbidae (say a pouter or tumbler)".

The Origin is universally praised in Italy and Germany, even by those who disagree with it.

Letter details

Letter no.
Hugh Falconer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Sackville St, 31
Source of text
DAR 99: 3–4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3194,” accessed on 30 November 2021,

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