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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Elizabeth Wedgwood   10 November [1837]


Friday Nov 10

My dear Charles

Here is what further information my father has been able to procure for you. I do not know that it is more decisive than what you had before, but it is satisfactory as corroborative— He has been endeavouring to ascertain by means of old Slaney the parish clerk some the dates more accurately, but he believes you may rely on them within a year. I believe it is the date of 1825 in his first facts he means— He desires me to tell you he is very much struck with your hypothesis of chalk being made by fishes—1 if fish made Chalk Hill I dont see why worms may not make a meadow— I suppose in William Dabb’s old croft the worms had done their work before it was ploughed—but 12 inches is certainly as much as one can think them capable of even in 80 years or so.— We are very much obliged to you for sending us a copy of ye “Maer Hypothesis,”2 which you so handsomely give my father all the credit of— We shall all be exceedingly glad when you can come & phisosophize again with us— Surely you mean to go and see Mr Crosse’s animals3 with your own eyes— you see a cargo is arrived in London— I think his new fact that though they are born in the acid they are drowned if they tumble in again is the oddest of all—& beats poisoning oil of peppermint hollow.

I went & paid Clayton4 a visit before Caroline went to Shrewsbury in such a rainy day that we could only sit over the fire—& the room looked so much larger & more comfortable than when I saw it before with all the chairs & tables in the middle of the floor, that I expect when it has got a clean face & some new chintz curtains it will put all it’s detractors to silence—but the pleasantest was to see Caroline looking so very comfortable in it. The Dr is coming there tomorrow—but he wont be so rash I should think as to go up stairs—

Goodbye my dear Charles—my mother desires me to tell you she hopes you will come very soon again— | Your affectionate cousin | S E W.

My father is out, but I believe I have given you his message right about the date.

William Dabbs’s bog meadow—the soil peaty & has been in grass several years—was sanded on the grass surface so as to be completely covered & to look red all over, probably about 14 inch deep—in the spring of 1835— In 1836 a slight sprinkling of soil was thrown over the surface, described by Dabbs as like a sowing of soil— An irregular stratum of sand is now found about 34inch below the surface, covered by that thickness of peaty soil—

William Dabbs’s old croft—peaty soil—arable—was marled when his mother was a girl who would now have been about 90— An imperfect stratum of marl but sufficienty distinct to be traced & the depth measured with confidence, is found at 12 inches in one place, & 14 inches in another, the difference corresponding with the difference of the level of the surface produced by ploughing—the cop of the ridge being taken in one trial, and the rain (I believe a provincial term for the low place between the ridges formed by throwing the furrows each way) in another— The marl is apparently sunk to the natural stratum of hard white sand which lies under the peat in this valley.

The depth of ploughing varies from 4 to 8 inches, both extremes being rare.

The date of 1825 opposite relates to the Lawn where we first dug for lime. Slaney has a book in which he keeps an account of his carrying for me & in which he finds the field in question limed in the early spring of 1825—so it is 121/2 years ago— I have only just learnt this & even now I have not been able to see Slaney— If I find any error I will write again before Wednesday—5


In the first version of his paper ‘On the formation of mould’, read 1 November 1837 at the Geological Society (Collected papers 1: 49–53), CD had included a hypothesis that chalk was produced from coral by the digestive action of marine animals. The statement was omitted from the version printed in the Transactions of the Geological Society (ibid., p. 53). (See letter from William Buckland to the Geological Society of London, 9 March 1838, and n. 2.)
CD had attributed the earthworm explanation to Josiah Wedgwood II. The information his uncle provided in this letter was added as a note to the accounts in both the Proceedings and the Transactions of the Geological Society (Collected papers 1: 52).
Andrew Crosse experimented on electro-crystallisation. In 1837 he gained notoriety when he announced that individuals of a species of Acarus appeared in the course of an experiment he was carrying out with a voltaic battery.
Staffordshire parish and hamlet, 2 miles south-west of Stoke-on-Trent, the site of the Etruria potteries. Caroline and Josiah Wedgwood III lived there before taking up residence at Leith Hill Place near Dorking, Surrey.
This paragraph is in the hand of Josiah Wedgwood II.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

‘Formation of mould’: On the formation of mould. [Read 1 November 1837.] Transactions of the Geological Society of London 2d ser. 5 (1840): 505–9. [Shorter publications, pp. 124–7.]


Sends information about, and dates of treatment of peaty fields. Marl seems to have sunk to the natural stratum of hard white sand which lies below the peat.

Thanks for "Maer Hypothesis" ["Formation of mould" (1840), Collected papers 1: 49–53].

Letter details

Letter no.
Sarah Elizabeth (Elizabeth) Wedgwood; Josiah Wedgwood, II
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204: 189
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 385,” accessed on 17 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2