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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Robert Wedgwood to Emma Darwin   3 February [1871]1


Feby. 3.

My dear Emma

I was very pleased to get Charles’ commission, tho’ it does not look much like it— But we have had a very busy time lately & the Weather has been against out door investigations. So it was not till yesty: that I cd. find a convenient Season.—2

Tho’, too, we have a great deal of Ridged up Land, it is mostly on the flat—

I looked carefully yesty: over some sloping ridges, and neither at the Top, Middle, or Bottom, could I perceive any loss of Shape, or accumulations of Soil. I don’t mean to say that there are not occasional Bulgings out, where the furrows end, but they look to me more as if they were left originally by the Plough— Or were caused by the washing down of the Soil, before it was covered by grass.

The Exactness of the Shape retained by the Ridges is remarkable—

I have consulted one of my Farmers, Jn. Smith3—who is a very shrewd, observant man—near 60—and he tells me that he never saw any alteration of Shape, in this ridged ground— Nor has he any traditionary idea as to when the Land was thus thrown up.

In this Clay soil, at a certain distance, you come down to the blue Lias, wh. is quite a different colour to the Soil above—& they say that in cutting across the Ridges, this line of Clay follows the line of the Ridges above, wh. seems to shew that they have been made for a long time.

There is another man near here, C. Randall,4 a crack Farmer Land Agent & a very clever man— I will ask him his experience; & if he has any that wd. interest Charles, I will send it you—

I shd. be very glad to do any thing for you at any time—appes. to the contrary notwithg. I remember being with Charles & Uncle Jos when, I fancy, the wormcasting theory was first broached5

Mary6 sends you her kind Love— | We wish Lennard7 cd. have come | yrs. very affectly. | R. Wedgwood

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Furrow always conspicuous’ blue crayon


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Robert Wedgwood to Emma Darwin, 9 February [1871] (Correspondence vol. 19).
CD had evidently asked Wedgwood to observe the shape of ridges on the land as part of his research into the action of worms. CD wanted to ascertain how long the ridges of ploughed land would persist after the land was last ploughed (see Earthworms, p. 292).
John Smith (1811–93).
In an article read in 1837, ‘Formation of mould’, p. 505 (see also Shorter publications, p. 124), CD noted that his attention had been called to the subject by his uncle Josiah Wedgwood II.


Information [for CD] on old, sloping, ridged fields.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Wedgwood
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 65
Physical description
ALS 4pp † (by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8198,” accessed on 20 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)