skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Henry Middleton   20 [1867?]1

Down Bromley Kent


Dear Sir

I am very sorry that I can give you no information. I cannot remember where S. Filippe is & have no good charts of coast of Chile.2 Guano might be accumulated in extreme N. part of coast of Chile, but I never heard of any.—3

I confess that I cannot believe that the bones of the ox, sheep & Horse could have been deposited in Guano.—

Nevertheless the Bones would of course be worth examination.— I am sorry that I can give no information & beg leave to remain | Dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | C. Darwin


The month and year are conjectured on the basis of the letter’s being pasted into Middleton’s copy of the fourth edition of Origin, which was published in November 1866; the year 1867 is on Middleton’s book plate, which is inside the front cover.
No letter from Middleton has been found. Middleton may have asked about San Felipe, an inland city north of Santiago, Chile; CD mentioned the city in Journal of researches, pp. 311, 316. There was also a sixteenth-century settlement on the south coast of the Strait of Magellan called San Felipe; it was later renamed Port Famine (Puerto del Hambre). CD mentioned Port Famine in ibid., p. 264, and in South America, pp. 151–2, 156.
Extensive deposits of guano in Peru, north of Chile, contributed to the mid-nineteenth-century guano trade between Peru and Britain, where the seabird excrement was used as fertiliser (see Mathew 1981). The climate of northern Chile is hot and dry, like that of Peru, and therefore conducive to guano deposition; guano was also exported from Chile (EB).


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

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Mathew, William M. 1981. The house of Gibbs and the Peruvian guano monopoly. London: Royal Historical Society.

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.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.


Sorry he cannot remember where S. Filippe [San Felipe?] is.

Doubts that bones of ox, sheep, and horse could have been deposited in guano [on coast of Chile], but they would be worth examination.

[Tipped in copy of Origin (1866) with CHM’s bookplate.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Henry Middleton
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (in Middleton’s copy of Origin 4th ed., BB.5.6)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5341,” accessed on 13 May 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15