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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   8 December 1868

Amateur Dramatic Club

Tuesday | 8 Dec 68

My dear Father,

Frank is going on v. well & is going to get up for a short time this evg.; he & Pryor (Nat. Sc. Scholar) were dissecting a Curlew’s wing & body all yesterday.1 Pryor has been reading Pettigrew’s paper & seems as much confused as I was.; but seems to think that Pettig. is right where he is’nt unintelligible & he shewed me v. well with the wing what he thought Pettigrew means.2

Frank has got one vol. of the Lyell with the temple of thing-magig on the outside & I have had for the last two years his book with the cockle shell outside.3

I am sorry to hear Jim is bad.4

Prof. Newton5 came & sat with F. for sometime yesterday. I broke the leg of his bed last night in pushing it back to the wall & had to prop it up with a chair. I am quite a swell at bandaging now, as the Dr. thought it was’nt worth while his coming in yesterday, but has been today. Have you seen the notes on Owen’s new vol: Newton showed them to me— fancy his being so childish as to christian yr Theory the D.T.—6

I am going to have Moore (who is up for his exam) & Elwin & Pryor to a sm. dinner tonight; as I want to cook both E. & M.7

Moore’s case has appeared in one of the daily papers & Elwin père is writing a pamphlet on it to be published on Saturday.8

Your affectionate Son | G. H. Darwin

I am utterly demoralised & can’t read even a novel.


Francis Darwin and Marlborough Robert Pryor were both undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge. Nat. Sc.: natural science. Pryor was a scholar from 1868 (Alum. Cantab.). Francis had apparently received a bad cut to his thigh (see letter to G. H. Darwin, [9 December 1868] and n. 3).
The reference is to an article by James Bell Pettigrew, ‘On the various modes of flight in relation to aeronautics’ (Pettigrew 1867), in which the morphology of insect and bird wings is discussed in relation to the mechanical principles of flight.
George refers to the tenth edition of Charles Lyell’s Principles of geology (Lyell 1867–8). The first volume has part of an engraving of the earth-pillars of Ritten stamped in gold on the front cover; the full engraving appears facing page 336 in the volume. The details of the cover engraving are not easy to make out and the overall shape of the stamp is similar to a cockleshell. The cover engraving of the second volume shows the Temple of Serapis at Puzzuoli; the full engraving appears as the frontispiece of the first volume.
Jim has not been identified.
Alfred Newton.
‘Derivative theory’ was a term used by Richard Owen in the last part of On the anatomy of vertebrates (Owen 1866–8), which was published in November 1868 (Publishers’ Circular, 10 December 1868, p. 759). CD’s annotated copy of Owen 1866–8 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 645–8). George refers to lengthy footnotes (Owen 1866–8, 3: 799–800) discussing CD’s reference to Owen’s apparent claim to have ‘promulgated the theory of natural selection in a passage read before the Zoological Society in February, 1850’ (Origin 4th ed., p. xviii). See Correspondence vol. 14, letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 May [1866] and n. 11.
Norman Moore and Hastings Phillip Elwin were both undergraduates at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.
George refers to Whitwell Elwin’s pamphlet, A narrative of the case of Mr. Moore of St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge (Elwin 1868). Moore was sent down following a minor altercation in his college. He lost his scholarship but was later allowed to sit his examination for the Natural Sciences tripos. (ODNB.) The daily paper has not been identified.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Elwin, Whitwell. 1868. A narrative of the case of Mr. Moore of St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge. London: Printed by Bradbury, Evans, and Co.

Lyell, Charles. 1867–8. Principles of geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants considered as illustrative of geology. 10th edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

Owen, Richard. 1866–8. On the anatomy of vertebrates. 3 vols. London: Longmans, Green & Co.

Pettigrew, James Bell. 1867. On the various modes of flight in relation to aeronautics. [Read 22 March 1867.] Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain 5 (1866–9): 94–107.


Sends news of his and Frank’s doings at Cambridge.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 5
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6495,” accessed on 20 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16