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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Henry Johnson   23 December 1871

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Dec 23. 1871

My dear Johnson

I am much obliged for yr letter & very kind invitation; but I am sorry to say that the exertion of coming to Shrewsbury wd be far beyond my strength.1 I am particularly obliged to you for being willing to go to Wroxeter; for the observations will be difficult to make, & you may not succeed in finding sim〈ple〉 sections.2 I send by this p〈ost〉 my old paper, which will shew you a little what I am after. Now I have succeeded in ascertaining the exact weight annually cast up by earth worms over a square yard: it amounts to 16 110 tons of dry earth per acre.3

I thank you for telling me your family news & I wish it was in my 〈12 page missing

P.S. We are reading Miss Meteyard, but find it full of inacuracies & lament that she obtained letters never meant to be published.4


Johnson’s letter to CD has not been found.
CD cited Johnson for information about the depth of soil over the Roman ruins at Wroxeter in Earthworms, pp. 221–8.
CD probably sent a copy of a paper he read in 1837 before the Geological Society of London, ‘Formation of mould’. See also letter from L. C. Wedgwood, 20 November [1871] and n. 2.
Eliza Meteyard had published a biography of Josiah Wedgwood I (Meteyard 1865–6; see Correspondence vol. 13); she had used letters supplied by CD (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from Eliza Meteyard, 17 November 1865).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Earthworms: The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1881.

‘Formation of mould’: On the formation of mould. [Read 1 November 1837.] Transactions of the Geological Society of London 2d ser. 5 (1840): 505–9. [Shorter publications, pp. 124–7.]

Meteyard, Eliza. 1865–6. The life of Josiah Wedgwood from his private correspondence and family papers … with an introductory sketch of the art of pottery in England. 2 vols. London: Hurst & Blackett.


Is unable to accept invitation to Shrewsbury. Is grateful for offer of assistance at Wroxeter.

The weight of dry earth cast up by worms is 161/10 tons per acre annually.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Johnson
Sent from
Source of text
Private collection
Physical description
3pp inc [signature & valediction excised]

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8118A,” accessed on 21 October 2019,

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