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Darwin Correspondence Project

From C. W. Peach   1 May 1871

30 Haddington Place, | Edinburgh

1st. May 1871.

My dear Sir,

It is very long since I wrote you, so long ago, that I find I am growing old (70) but thankful to say, except hearing, active, healthy & strong & am always busy about natural history & Geology, & have been lucky, in making good hits in both.1 However, I have read your last work on the Descent of man, & your two former ones.2 My son & self possess them—we have them of our own, so that we may take our time & ‘read, mark & learn, & inwardly digest,’ & I am happy to say it does not hinder our digestion or make us unhappy.3 We take to it kindly & consequently get ourselves—at times—snubbed & even take this kindly. I find people are constantly talking ‘Dawinism’ (excuse the last word) and do not know it, & when I catch them at it, I quietly help them on & do not let them know that I am doing so.

With the ‘unco guid” I’ve another way—4 I quietly ask them whether “they expect when they die, to be, far higher & more glorious &c. in the next world.” “Yes of course” they say— “Well then was it more difficult for God to bring us from a lower form, than it is to make us a higher when we have done with this world.” They try to shuffle, but I pin them to it & you would smile to see how puzzled they are. The intent of this letter is first to ask how you are & beg you to accept of my best regards for ‘Auld lang syne’.—5

Next, I send with this a small box by “Pattern post”6 In which I have put a piece of Gulfweed part of a mass sent me by the Captn. of a vessel, now lying at W. Hartlepool, he got it in 32o. N & 77o West on the 9th. March last, I got it last Monday.7 Although Gulfweed was plentiful, this was in a small patch & looked so beautiful he got some of it & kindly sent me a piece. I have never seen any like it—at first I thought it Oxynaspis—but give that up, I’ve tried Lepas pectinata but do not get on well—8 I cannot make it that—for if I remember right in the hundreds collected by me in Cornwall & Shetland they differ, & therefore in my dilemma I have sent you a piece of the weed & ask you to be good enough to decide. I should also be glad to know whether the other is L. anserifera [Linn.]9 They have done me the honor of making me one of the Presidents of the Royal Physical Society here & I want to be sure, if they print my little story about it.10 I shall also be glad to know whether it is a common one.

I enclose a rough sketch to show that at A. B. C. in many, there are thin films, in which rounded shining spots are seen & it is these that puzzle me—for as they get (the cirripede) longer the one at A is lost—the other two continue longest, but B the longest of all. Probably there is nothing in this. The smallest ones show these pretty things best.11


I am, My dear Sir, | very faithfully yours, | Chas W Peach

P.S. to Letter 1st. May 1871.

I do not know whether the following will be interesting to you. I jotted them down when I thought about them as “to tell Mr. Darwin.”— This is in connexion with Chap IV p. 147—Vol I Descent of Man   “My Wife has often noticed that children nursed by Woemen who had milk in one breast only, that their children invarably had one side of the head much larger than the other.”12

When I lived at Beer Devonshire, there was a Lt. in the Navy whose Wife—a very fine woman—was “stone deaf”—she was not so when he married her—but became so after having her first child & ever continued so—she had several children after—all could hear but strange to say, her eldest daughter became so (stone deaf) after her first child & ever remained so.13 What is still more singular the Sister of the first mentioned, who also married a Lt. RN was similary afflicted under the same circumstance. I knew the two first well. I regret that I did not at the time enquire whether the mother of the two Sisters was so before them. Their father was a Mr. Raymond, Manager or Proprietor of one of the London Theatres.—14

When at Goran Haven in Cornwall one of our servant Girls, was married to a Sailor, a young & very healthy, handsome Girl, she had three children before she was 21, & died after giving birth to her third a few days, with violent purging & throwing up—her mother died about the same age. & on her third child with the same kind of sickness & purging.15

Black Cocks.— I’ve often seen the male ones* at daylight in the morning sitting on the walls of the fields sunning themselves in great numbers, & not a hen near,—this near Berriedale in Caithness. This when travelling per Mail from Wick when visiting the outposts & creeks officially.16

My old dog “Hassan”—I had him 15 years—invariably howled at B flat when blown on the flute—& quite in time— no other note disturbed him, this he responded to immediately— I’ve tried it very often & always successfully.17

Grouse & Bagpipe. I was once travelling from Lairg to Inch-na damph in Sutherlandshire on the mail cart—a piper was a passenger (he was the Duchess of Sutherlands)18   the driver & all of us persuaded him to give us “a spring” & he did play well & I was able to almost enjoy the noise, for the first & last time only.— We were amongst the heather hills, & when the pipes were at their best, I observed a Cock Grouse show his head above the heather, within 10 yards of the cart, & slowly glide up a small hill there, with his head at full stretch listening as if entranced by the sound, & kept getting up higher & higher so that he could see us until we were out of sight of him.— He was so intent on the music I almost fancy he might have been picked up.

I must not indulge in more, all these I can vouch for from personal knowledge.

C. W. Peach.

I’ve been put on the shelf more than 5 years—

*A little Irish this!!

C. Darwin Esqre

CD annotations

6.1 P.S.... other.” 7.5] crossed blue crayon; ‘Curious case of Inheritance’ blue crayon
9.1 When … officially. 10.4] crossed blue crayon
11.1 My … successfully. 11.3] scored blue crayon; ‘Music’ blue crayon
12.1 Grouse … knowledge. 13.1] crossed blue crayon


No previous correspondence between CD and Peach has been found; however, Peach had provided specimens and observations for CD’s research on barnacles (see Living Cirripedia (1851), pp. 33, 240 n., and Living Cirripedia (1854), pp. 157, 511). On Peach’s contribution to CD’s barnacle work, see Anderson and Lowe 2010.
Peach refers to Descent, Variation, and probably to Origin, although CD’s most recently published books prior to Variation were Climbing plants and Orchids.
Peach probably refers to his eldest son, the geologist Benjamin Neeve Peach. The quotation ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ is from the Book of common prayer (1662).
Unco guid (Scottish): ‘the obtrusively rigorous in morals’ (Chambers).
Auld lang syne (Scottish): ‘long ago (literally, old long since)’ (Chambers).
The pattern post was a cheap delivery service offered by the Post Office for sending of samples of paper and fabric.
Gulfweed is seaweed or algae of the genus Sargassum. The location given is the western edge of the Sargasso sea, so named for its expansive mats of Sargassum. Hartlepool is a coastal town in north-east England.
The barnacle genera Oxynaspis and Lepas had been placed by CD in the family Lepadidae (see Living Cirripedia (1851)), which corresponds roughly to the modern order Pedunculata.
Lepas anserifera is the goose barnacle.
On Peach’s involvement in the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh, see Anderson and Taylor 2008, pp. 412–13. Peach served as one of the society’s presidents from 1869 to 1872 and delivered a presidential address in 1872. The Proceedings of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh, in which the presidential addresses were normally published, was discontinued from 1867 to 1874.
From Peach’s description and the location where the specimen was found, the barnacle may have been Lepas fascicularis (now Dosima fascicularis), a species commonly found in the Sargasso Sea. The species had been described by CD in Living Cirripedia (1851) as follows: ‘in L. fascicularis … the valves are covered with thin membrane, bearing very minute spines’ (p. 68); ‘valves generally covered throughout by thin chitine membrane, which is thickly clothed, especially in the interspaces between the valves, with minute spines, barely visible to the naked eye’ (p. 93).
In Descent 1: 146–8, CD discussed the size and shape of the human skull, its relationship to other physical characteristics, and its modification by the conditions of existence. Peach’s wife was Jemima Peach.
CD had briefly discussed the inheritance of deafness in Variation 2: 22, and the correlation of deafness with other characteristics and diseases in ibid. 2: 328–30. Beer is a fishing village. The lieutenant and his family have not been identified.
Peach lived in Devonshire and Cornwall in the 1820s and 1830s; Mr Raymond and the other persons mentioned have not been further identified.
The persons mentioned have not been identified. Gorran Haven is a fishing village.
CD discussed the mating behaviour of the blackcock (Tetrao tetrix, also known as the black grouse) in Descent 2: 44–5. Berriedale and Wick are both on the north-east coast of Scotland.
CD included this example and acknowledged Peach in Descent 2d ed., p. 569, n. 33.
The duchess of Sutherland was Anne Sutherland-Leveson-Gower. The piper may have been John Macbeth of Farr, Sutherland ( (accessed 11 May 2010))


Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

Climbing plants: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green; Williams & Norgate. 1865.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

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

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Sends specimens of gulf-weed and cirripedes for CD to identify.

Various observations on Descent,

inherited deafness,

recognition of musical notes by dog, etc.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles William Peach
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 89: 177–8
Physical description
8pp † sketch

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7731,” accessed on 25 November 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19