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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Buckland   [November 1840 – 17 February 1841]1

12 Upper Gower St


My dear Sir

I received yesterday the enclosed paper from Mr. Murchison with his pencil marks on it:—2 I cannot think of any information to give you relating to Dr. Du Gard.—

He is no relation to any of my family.—3

I have to thank you for your kindness in sending me long since some maps of the country near Glen Roy, which I daresay will be very useful, if I ever visit that country again—4 I should much like to hear your’s & Agassiz’s opinion on the parallel roads, though I believe I know its outline—5 I cannot give up the sea, after thinking over many points of minor detail in that country, though, I am very sure, if your theory had occurred to me, during the first two days of my examination, I should have given up their marine and ordinary lacustrine origin at once6

But I have no business to trouble you with my notions.

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


The date is established by the reference to Thomas Dugard (see n. 3, below), and by the reference to Buckland’s and Louis Agassiz’s opinion on the parallel roads of Glen Roy (see n. 5, below). In 1841, 17 February was a Wednesday.
CD refers to Roderick Impey Murchison. The paper sent by Murchison has not been identified.
Dugard, physician to the Shropshire Infirmary, and honorary fellow of the Geological Society, died on 19 January 1840 (Gentleman’s Magazine n.s. 14 (1840): 556). Buckland, who was president of the Geological Society, included a brief obituary notice of him in his anniversary address to the society on 19 February 1841 (Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 3 (1838–42): 523). Buckland had probably written to CD to ask for information about Dugard to include in his notice. There had been some scandal about Dugard in 1831 and 1832 that is mentioned in CD’s sisters’ letters to CD (see Correspondence vol. 1).
CD visited Glen Roy in June 1838. His paper ‘Parallel roads of Glen Roy’ appeared in 1839. On CD’s theory about the parallel roads, in the context of other nineteenth-century theories about their origin, see Rudwick 1974; see also Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix IX. The maps that Buckland sent have not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Buckland and Agassiz visited Glen Roy together in 1840 (Buckland 1840, p. 333). Agassiz’s account of his theory of the glacial origin of the parallel roads of Glen Roy, delivered at the Geological Society on 4 November 1840, was summarised in the Proceedings of the Geological Society of London (J. L. R. Agassiz 1840, p. 332; see also Rudwick 1974); Buckland’s remarks at the society on 4 or 18 November were also reported (Buckland 1840, p. 333). Buckland and Agassiz had concluded that the parallel roads of Glen Roy were beaches formed as the water of a lake formed by a glacial dam at the foot of the Glen subsided. CD’s theory was that they were beaches of a sea that once covered that area of Scotland (see n. 4, above).
In the letter to Robert Chambers, [June 1848] (Correspondence vol. 4), CD wrote of his visit to Glen Roy: ‘during my first two days I was a convert to the lacustrine theory’ (that is, the theory that the parallel roads were remnants of the shores of ancient lakes, though the lake barrier was not at that time thought to have been a glacier); but he also explained that a number of features of the topography of Glen Roy had convinced him that his marine theory was correct. See also ibid., letter to Robert Chambers, 11 September 1847, and Rudwick 1974, p. 117. CD did not abandon his marine theory until 1861, when Thomas Francis Jamieson, with the support of CD and Charles Lyell, visited Glen Roy. Jamieson published his conclusions in Jamieson 1863. See Rudwick 1974 and Correspondence vol. 9.


Buckland, William. 1840. Memoir on the evidences of glaciers in Scotland and the North of England. [Read 4 and 18 November, and 2 December 1840.] Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 3 (1838–42): 332–7, 345–8.

Jamieson, Thomas Francis. 1863. On the parallel roads of Glen Roy, and their place in the history of the glacial period. [Read 21 January 1863.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 19: 235–59.

Rudwick, Martin John Spencer. 1974. Darwin and Glen Roy: a ‘great failure’ in scientific method? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 5 (1974–5): 97–185.


He encloses an unidentified paper received from R. I. Murchison the previous day.

Is unable to provide information about Dr Du Gard.

Appreciates the maps of Glen Roy sent by WB. Would welcome the opinions of WB and Louis Agassiz concerning the parallel roads but cannot give up the idea of their marine origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Buckland
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Buckland papers, Glaciation /4 (iv))
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 641A,” accessed on 27 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)