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Darwin Correspondence Project

From V. O. Kovalevsky   22 November 1870

Berlin 7. Georgienstrasse.

22 Nov. 1870.

Dear Sir

I did not write You such a long Time not beeing quite sure shall I remain at Berlin or go to Leipsic, and although my wife was not admitted to the University here we resolved to remain at Berlin there beeing here so many means of pursuing studies privately.1 I hope Your intended visit did You good and delayed a little the printing of Your book what I most fervently wish as I am a little backward with the translation; still, the four sheets You kindly sent me are soon finished and I pray You dear Sir to send me some more if there is any printed.—2 Could You not inform me when do You hope that both volumes will appear in England.—3

From my brother I had news before yesterday, he could not procure himself live Scalpellum’s and hopes to get them in the spring, when as the pescatori assured him they are much more abundant.4 He received an offer from the Kiev University to send him for 5 months to the Red Sea and started the 8 Nov. from Naples, I have letters from Alexandria, where he arrived safe the 11 of November and got the same day to Suez; I expect he will remain the whole time at Tor (Tûr) on the west side of the Sinai peninsula and work there on the coral reefs.5

It seems dear Sir that we are going to have a fight with You, that comes all from Your Prussian sympaties; now You allowed Your best and truest ally to be murdered, who shall prevent Russia & Prussia to divide Austria and trottle the Sick man.6 We are very anxious about the state of Paris, as my sister in Law is shut up there; the siege is drawing to the close as the provisions become scanty, so Paris will surrender without bombardement, one is happy even at this.—7 My wife send You her compliments and prays to remember her to Mrs Darwin and the ladies

Yours | Very truly | W. Kowalevsky.—

P.S. The proof sheets can be sent under cover by post, it is generally a safer way.—


Kovalevsky’s last letter to CD is dated 11 October [1870]. Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya was studying privately in Berlin with Karl Theodor Wilhelm Weierstrass (Tee 1976–7, pp. 122–3).
CD had been at Leith Hill Place, the home of his brother-in-law Josiah Wedgwood III, and Ightam Mote, from 13 to 20 October 1870 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). Kovalevsky was translating Descent from the corrected proof-sheets.
Descent was published on 24 February 1871 (see R. B. Freeman 1977).
Kovalevsky refers to Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky; see letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 15 September 1870 and n. 2. Pescatori: fishermen (Italian). Scalpellum is a barnacle genus.
For more on A. O. Kovalevsky’s plans for work in Egypt, see letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 28 February [1870].
The French government declared war on Prussia in July 1870. French hopes that other German states would seize the opportunity to turn on Prussia proved unfounded, and most supported the Prussians; Austria seemed divided in its hostility to both parties and maintained neutrality. The Russian government maintained friendly relations with Prussia, and, in September, announced that it repudiated an article in the Paris Treaty of 1856 referring to the neutrality of the Black Sea. This deeply alarmed the Turkish government, who recognised it as a prelude to the establishment of a Russian fleet in the Black Sea. The Ottoman (Turkish) empire was at the time sometimes referred to as the ‘sick man of Europe’. Collusion between the Russians and the Prussians at a time of French weakness was suspected, and the British Government rejected any adjustment of the terms of the treaty. (Annual Register (1870): 109 (United Kingdom); 154–221 (France); 233 (Germany); 251 (Austria); 284–5 (Russia); 288 (Turkey).)
Paris came under siege by the Prussians in September 1870. In October, Otto von Bismarck had announced his intention of reducing the city by famine rather than bombardment (Annual Register (1870): 187). Sofia’s sister was Anna Korvin-Krukovskaya.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Tee, Garry J. 1976–7. Sof’ya Vasil’yevna Kovalevskaya. Mathematical Chronicle 5: 113–39.


Sofya Kovalevsky not admitted to University in Berlin.

Translating the four sheets CD sent. When will book [Descent] be printed?

Alexander [Kovalevsky] has gone to the Red Sea to study corals.

Will work on live Scalpellum at Naples in spring.

Bemoans England’s Prussian sympathies. Paris will fall without bombardment.

Letter details

Letter no.
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (Владимир Онуфриевич Ковалевский)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 85
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7381,” accessed on 3 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18