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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   [c. 9 January 1839]

My dear Lyell

I send my Glen Roy paper,1 which thanks to Providence I have at last finished.— I hope the Secretary2 will not grumble at its appearance.— it is all legible, although some pages look a little ugly from my corrections. Regarding its length, I devoutly trust they will not ask me to shorten it, for long as it is, I believe there is scarcely a sentence, that I have not considered whether I could strike it out, without injuring the general argument.—

If you think it worth your while to keep it & read it, pray detain it just as long as you like,—but I doubt whether it is your worth while.—

I return the books with many thanks The last letter of Mr Blackadder,3 though I was very glad to read it, yet it was not worth specifically mentioning.—

Your information about the decaying shells, I have introduced in a note as you sent it me, in inverted commas; with a sentence saying that you had given it me.—4

I wish I had seen Mr Maclaren’s capital chapters on Alluvium5 &c &c before I had written my Appendix.—6 He upsets my argument of the fixed position of the boulders when drifted, but greatly confirms in my own mind, the origin of the scratches & grooves.—

His remarks on the position of the Boulders appear to me to originate entirely in a misapprehension, that icebergs drop their cargoes out at sea,—which from the reasons I have given in the Appendix, no doubt is the exception, to the ordinary occurrence.— Where a boulder could now lie, a floating mass if ice could certainly land it.

If the Royal Soc. prints my paper, I ought to have a map, & I shall soon have a drawing, which appears to me exceedingly accurate, & will serve to give to anyone, who might see my Paper some general idea of the appearance of the wonderful roads.—7

At some future time I shall be extremely curious to talk over with you, the inferences about the small amount of Alluvial action in Lochaber, which has taken place, since the sea retired.— no one point interested me more, & though it cost me no small effort to swallow the inference that I have given, I can see no sort of loop-hole to escape from the result.— Excuse this long note.—

Ever Yours, | C. Darwin.


‘Observations on the parallel roads of Glen Roy’, read at the Royal Society on 7 February 1839 (Collected papers 1: 87–137).
The Secretaries of the Royal Society at that time were Samuel Hunter Christie and Peter Mark Roget.
A friend of Lyell (see Wilson 1972, p. 87).
Collected papers 1: 134 n. 26.
CD added an appendix to Journal and remarks‘containing some additional facts (especially on the theory of the transportation of erratic blocks) which I have accidentally met with during the past year’ (Preface, p. viii).


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

Journal and remarks: Journal and remarks. 1832–1836. By Charles Darwin. Vol. 3 of Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle’s circumnavigation of the globe. London: Henry Colburn. 1839. [Separately published as Journal of researches.]

Maclaren, Charles. 1839. A sketch of the geology of Fife and the Lothians, including detailed descriptions of Arthur’s Seat and Pentland Hills. Edinburgh and London: Adam and Charles Black.

‘Parallel roads of Glen Roy’: Observations on the parallel roads of Glen Roy, and of other parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an attempt to prove that they are of marine origin. By Charles Darwin. [Read 7 February 1839.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 129: 39–81. [Shorter publications, pp. 50–88.]

Wilson, Leonard Gilchrist. 1972. Charles Lyell. The years to 1841: the revolution in geology. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.


Discusses his Glen Roy paper [(1839), Collected papers 1: 87–137], which he is sending to CL.

Remarks on Charles MacLaren’s treatment of alluvium. Comments on alluvial action in Lochaber.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.15)
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 480,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

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