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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. C. Ramsay   12 July [1864]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

July 12th.

Dear Ramsay

I am much obliged for your note2 & the book which I ought to have thanked you for before.3

I am as yet not strong after my long illness & am much in arrear in reading. Therefore I have not even cut the pages of your book yet; but on turning over the pages I saw a passage about the denudation of the Wealden & I said to myself I will read the whole of the book; & now from what you say I think I showed some sagacity.—4

I am very glad your Lake-glacier theory is progressing for I was an early convert from comparing in my mind tropical & temperate regions.5 Have you seen Haast’s Map of middle Island of New Zealand—6 the lakes there wd rejoice your heart & there are traces of plenty of glacial action. You ought to visit the North Italian lakes for they are very unpleasant to the most willing convert.7 Nothing has interested me more for some time than your short letter in the Reader about the fossils in the profoundly deep rocks of N. America.8

I hope that you are quite well & doing good work—

Believe me, dear Ramsay | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin

P.S. | Do you or anyone at Jermyn St9 ever write to young Gould in Tasmania?10 if so I wish you would direct his attention to traces of Glacial action on the loftier mountains.— Or if I knew his address, I would write.—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from A. C. Ramsay, 10 July 1864.
See letter from A. C. Ramsay, 10 July 1864 and n. 2. Ramsay sent CD the second edition of The physical geology and geography of Great Britain (Ramsay 1864b). He had previously sent CD the first edition (Ramsay 1863).
Ramsay proposed a theory of the glacial origin of rock basins in a paper read before the Geological Society of London on 5 March 1862 (Ramsay 1862). CD largely supported the theory, although it was strongly criticised by Hugh Falconer, Roderick Impey Murchison, and Charles Lyell (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to A. C. Ramsay, 5 September [1862], and this volume, letters to J. D. Hooker, [20–]22 February [1864] and n. 16, 26[–7] March [1864] and n. 19, [23 August 1864], and 22 October [1864]). See also Davies 1969, pp. 303–9. The theory is elaborated in Ramsay 1864b, pp. 113–23.
CD may refer to the map of the Southern Alps of the Middle Island (now South Island) of New Zealand that Julius von Haast sent to Joseph Dalton Hooker in August 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 August 1863). This map is in the collections of the library and archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. CD also received a map from Haast in November 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Julius von Haast, 6 August 1863, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 [November 1863]). This map has not been found. It may be one of those referred to in Haast’s paper ‘On the Southern Alps of Canterbury, Middle Island, New Zealand’, which was read before the Royal Geographical Society of London on 8 February 1864 (J. F. J. von Haast 1864a). For Haast’s observations of glacial action, see also letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 June 1864 and n. 10.
In his letter to Ramsay of 5 September [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10), CD noted that the great depth of Italian lakes presented a difficulty for Ramsay’s theory. Ramsay apparently had visited the alpine lakes of northern Italy (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from A. C. Ramsay, 17 February 1862).
Ramsay’s letter on fossils in the Laurentian limestones of Canada, which appeared in the 23 April 1864 issue of the Reader, p. 526, described the discovery of a fossil foraminiferan in the oldest known rocks in the world. In Origin, p. 307, CD had suggested that the presence of phosphatic nodules and bituminous matter in some of the lowest azoic rocks indicated the existence of life before the Cambrian period. For CD’s interest in the subject, see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Asa Gray, 25 April [1860] and n. 5, and Correspondence vol. 13, letter to Charles Lyell, 25 March [1865]. CD modified later editions of Origin to incorporate the discovery (see Peckham 1959, pp. 514–15).
The offices of the Geological Survey of Great Britain were in the Museum of Practical Geology, 27–31 Jermyn Street, London (Post Office London directory 1864).
Charles Gould, son of the ornithologist John Gould, was surveying the geology of Tasmania (Aust. dict. biog.).


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.

Peckham, Morse, ed. 1959. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: a variorum text. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


Thanks for his book [Physical geology and geography of Great Britain, 2d. ed. (1864)].

Pleased that ACR’s glacial lake theory is progressing. New Zealand lakes support the view. Suggests he write to Charles Gould in Tasmania, calling his attention to glacial action.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Andrew Crombie Ramsay
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Ramsay 306: 8)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4560,” accessed on 17 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12