skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. H. Howorth   30 July 1872

Derby House Eccles

July 30th 1872.

My dear Sir

I beg to send you a copy of a paper lately read before the Anthropological Institute and to hope that you will not find in it any expression which can be construed into anything disrespectful.1 I owe too much both of my taste for science and of my scanty knowledge to your books to be guilty of anything of the kind, and I should like to have the opportunity of correcting anything of which you disapprove in a future paper. In the reading of facts it is impossible that we should all agree, & it is only by the conflict of opinion that we arrive at the truth. If I differ from my master however I cannot do so in the terms which are congenial to some controversialists. I am afraid I have forgotten myself once or twice with Mr Wallace.2 My excuse is that he indulged in some rather contemptuous phrases which are irritating & not very convincing.

Captain Galton has asked me to enlarge 2 or 3 letters which appeared in Nature into a paper on the areas of upheaval & subsidence in the Earths crust.3 I have found the work by no means easy, but have collected a good many observations on the rise of land in various places which promise a curious result. This I will send you if you care to have it. Evidence of depression is less easy to find. Your work on Coral islands is the main collection of facts on the subject.4 I have added a good many places to your list, but am not well satisfied with my work. It seems to me that mangrove swamps which surround many coasts ought to be evidence pro or con on this matter. Your experience of tropical countries is so great and your range of facts so great also that I venture to hope you may have considered this question, namely whether mangroves grow in a subsiding area or not. I can only be sure of one place where a mangrove forest is to be found in an area of upheaval & in this all the trees are dead. If I can do anything of any kind for you in Lancashire I hope you will make use of me.

I remain | Yours very respectfully | Henry H. Howorth

C. Darwin Esq.

CD annotations

2.4 which promise … result.] scored pencil
2.5 Your work … subject. 2.6] ‘Danas work’5 added pencil
2.10 I venture … not. 2.11] double scored pencil


Howorth refers to ‘On fertility and sterility’ (Howorth 1872c), the first part of his paper ‘Strictures on Darwinism’. The paper has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Howorth had sent a letter to Nature (Howorth 1871a) that prompted responses from CD (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter to Nature, 1 July [1871]) and Alfred Russel Wallace (Wallace 1871). Howorth’s published reply (Howorth 1871b) was deferential to CD, but it characterised Wallace’s ‘dogmatism’ as ‘puerile’ (p. 200).
Howorth probably refers to Francis Galton, vice-president of the Royal Geographical Society in 1872, rather than Douglas Strutt Galton, a captain in the Royal Engineers. Howorth’s letters to Nature, ‘Circumpolar land’ and ‘Recent climatic changes’ (Howorth 1871c, 1872a, and 1872b), were expanded into two articles (Howorth 1873 and 1874) in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London. Howorth argued that geological uplift was greatest in high latitudes and was centred on the north and south poles.
In Coral reefs, CD had argued that the growth of barrier reefs and atolls was a sign that the sea floor was sinking, and had included a map that showed the areas of the ocean in which they occurred.
CD’s annotation is probably a note for his reply, but no letter to Howorth has been found. He probably refers to James Dwight Dana’s Corals and coral islands (Dana 1872), having recently received a presentation copy of it (see letter from J. D. Dana, 23 May 1872). CD’s annotations on the section ‘Subsidence indicated by atolls and barrier reefs’ (Dana 1872, pp. 321–32) in the copy in the Darwin Library–CUL indicate that he had some doubts about Dana’s evidence (see Marginalia 1: 179).


Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

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

Dana, James Dwight. 1872. Corals and coral islands. New York: Dodd & Mead.

Howorth, Henry Hoyle. 1873. Recent elevations of the earth’s surface in the northern circumpolar regions. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 43: 240–63.

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.


Sends paper read before Anthropological Institute ["Strictures on Darwinism, pt 1", J. Anthropol. Inst. 2 (1873): 21–40]. CD is his master, though they disagree.

Criticises Wallace’s "contemptuous phrases".

Is studying elevation and subsidence.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Hoyle Howorth
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 277
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8437,” accessed on 17 November 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20