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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Gould   [after 1 December 1840]1

12 Upper Gower St


My dear Sir

I have looked through the first number with great interest. I can truly say I never saw anything by half so beautiful.— I feel mortified at being compelled to return your volume but my circumstances now that I am a married man, will not really justify me in indulging myself in such a luxury as the possession of your unrivalled and magnificent work.—2 I cannot, of course, think of keeping this number & returning the two I possess (which are now at my father’s at Shrewsbury) as you so very kindly offered,—& I sincerely regret, that I am precluded from showing, in the small way of being a subscriber, my warm respect for your zeal and talents in the pursuit of Science.3

Believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin


The date is established by the publication date of the first part of Gould’s Birds of Australia (see n. 2, below).
The first part of Gould’s Birds of Australia (J. Gould 1840–8) was published on 1 December 1840 (Aust. dict. biog.). It contained seventeen folio plates with letterpress, and cost three guineas ([J. Gould 1870], p. 2). When completed in 1848, Birds of Australia comprised thirty-six parts in seven volumes. CD had married his cousin Emma Wedgwood on 29 January 1839.
The first number of J. Gould 1840–8 was based on Gould’s direct observation of Australian birds from 1838 to 1840; prior to his trip to Australia in 1838, however, Gould had published two parts of his proposed work and then realised that he had insufficient material to complete his study in Europe. When calling on prospective subscribers to J. Gould 1840–8, he evidently offered to take back the two earlier numbers published in 1837 and 1838 (R. B. Sharpe 1893, pp. xv–xvi). CD’s father, Robert Waring Darwin, lived at The Mount in Shrewsbury.


Gould, John. 1840–8. The birds of Australia. 7 vols. London: the author.

Sharpe, Richard Bowdler. 1893. An analytical index to the works of the late John Gould, F.R.S.. London: Henry Sotheran & Co.


Feels he cannot keep the gift of Gould’s "magnificent work" or take out a subscription now that he is a married man.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Gould
Sent from
12 Upper Gower St
Source of text
Profiles in History (dealers) (12 December 2012)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 578F,” accessed on 8 December 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)