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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. N. Smith   20 November [1840]

12 Upper Gower St

Friday Nov. 20th

Dear Sir

I have been prevented by continued illness from sooner acknowledging your very obliging communication.1 I have now, I am very sorry to say, to make you many apologies for having given you much trouble in vain, for I find that on June 10th (after I had left town owing to my state of health) a letter from Mr R. Greaves to Dr. Buckland was read to Soc. briefly describing the caves at Caldy Isd.—2 I trust, seeing the cause of this mistake you will excuse it.—

With respect to the Birds beaks, I will, when stronger get them examined & should the result be interesting, I will not fail to inform you.— I am not sure, whether I understand rightly, that I may present these beaks to Geolog. Soc in your name.3

If you wish them returned to you, will you please to inform me.— and believe me | dear Sir | Yours obliged | Charles Darwin


Smith’s letter has not been found.
CD had offered to read a paper describing Smith’s discovery of fossil bones and beaks in caves on Caldy Island at a meeting of the Geological Society of London in autumn 1840 (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to G. N. Smith, [c. 15 August 1840]). The letter from Richard Greaves to William Buckland, dated 6 June 1840, on the discovery of the bones of birds, fishes, and mammalia in the limestone cliff at Eel Point on Caldy Island, had been read at the meeting of 10 June 1840 (Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 3 (1842): 322). Greaves has not been identified. CD and his family had travelled to Maer Hall, Emma Darwin’s family home in Staffordshire, on 5 June 1840 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)); CD fell ill again on 4 August, and they did not return to London until 14 November (see Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix II). Smith had probably revised his paper in line with CD’s suggestions in his letter to Smith of [c. 15 August 1840] (Correspondence vol. 2).
CD had asked Smith to present some of his Caldy Island specimens to the Geological Society; if Smith had no duplicates, CD offered to have the specimens described by an anatomist, append the descriptions to the paper, and then return the specimens to Smith (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to G. N. Smith, [c. 15 August 1840]).


Sorry that ill health prevented sooner reply. Letter about caves at Caldy was already read by Buckland. Will examine birds’ beaks when better and present to Geological Society of London in Smith’s name.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Gilbert Nicholas Smith
Sent from
12 Upper Gower St
20 NOV 1840
Source of text
Angus Carroll (private collection)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 580F,” accessed on 30 September 2022,

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