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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Lonsdale   6 May [1864]1

Down, Bromley, | Kent;

May 6th.

My Dear Lonsdale,

I received your letter with as much surprise as from one dead;2 for it so happened that 3 or 4 nights ago I was thinking about you and I saw you as plainly as in the old days in your little room at the Geolog. Soc.3 I was thinking how I could learn any news of you. I am sorry at the poor accoun/〉 I was thinking how I could learn any news of you. I am sorry at the poor account that you give, and I know how long and how much you havet that you give, and I know how long and how much you have suffered.4 I had quite forgotten about the coral, but I now remember its appearance. Your MS. is arrived and I am fairly astounded at the labour you have bestowed on the subject. It seems a very great pity that such labour should be wasted. Had I not better send the specimen and MS. to the Geolog. Soc. to be printed or kept in the archives?5 It might be of extreme use to any one working on the subject.

I have myself been ill for the last 9 months, but am slowly recovering and hope still to do a little work in Nat. History.6

Believe me, my dear Lonsdale, I shall ever remember your uniform kindness to me in old long past days, and our many pleasant conversations.7

I remain yours | Very sincerely, | Charles Darwin.


The year is established by the reference to CD’s long illness (see n. 6, below).
The letter from Lonsdale has not been found.
Lonsdale had been curator and librarian, then assistant secretary and librarian, of the Geological Society of London from 1829 to 1842 (DNB). He had described CD’s fossil coral specimens from Tasmania, collected during the Beagle voyage (see Volcanic islands, pp. 161–9).
Lonsdale had resigned his post at the Geological Society in 1842 because of poor health (DNB). Upon his resignation, CD had contributed to a subscription fund to assist Lonsdale in his work on fossil corals (Correspondence vol. 2, letter to A. S. Horner, [4 October 1842] and n. 4, and letter to Charles Lyell, [5 and 7 October 1842]).
The specimen and manuscript have not been found; however, in a letter to Peter Martin Duncan of 19 September 1876 (Calendar no. 10608), CD wrote: ‘On turning out a pile of rubbish in one of my rooms I found a parcel with a fossil coral & a long M.S account (beautifully written) by Lonsdale. I believe that this arrived during one of my long illnesses, anyhow it was completely forgotten’. CD said that he would send the specimen and manuscript to Duncan, who was then president of the Geological Society.
CD had been seriously ill for the last five months of 1863 and the first four months of 1864; his symptoms including persistent vomiting (see Correspondence vols. 11 and 12).
CD had been introduced to Lonsdale by Adam Sedgwick before his departure on the Beagle voyage (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter from Adam Sedgwick, 18 September 1831); he later remarked on the ‘most cordial reception’ given him by Lonsdale (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to J. S. Henslow, [30–1 October 1836]). CD had considered Lonsdale as a possible editor of his 1844 species sketch, in the event of his death (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter to Emma Darwin, 5 July 1844, n. 5).


Thanks WL for his MS on coral and suggests that it be sent to the Geological Society for printing or preserving in the archives.

Comments on his and WL’s bad health and recalls WL’s past kindness to him.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Lonsdale
Sent from
Source of text
Murch 1893, pp. 436–7

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5080A,” accessed on 31 March 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18 (Supplement)