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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Gerard Krefft   1 November 1873

Australian Museum Sydney

November 1st | 1873

My dear Mr Darwin

I received your very kind note and the auto. for Mr Parkes who was delighted with it.1 I took the opportunity to remind him that there were 150£ unexpended for exploration of caves &c & he promised to let me spend it my own way   if he does, some fresh discoveries may be looked for.2 I shall send a man to Queensland to dig only the classification can be done here.— With regard to the flowers of the Eucalypti I can only say that if not bees, at least wasps, some flies, a hundred and more different kind of beetles orthoptera, Homoptera,3 &c &c visit the flowers as long as there is pollen to be seen   I went out on purpose a few days ago and found the low dwarf Eucalypti near Long Bay4 covered with all sorts of insects though the flowers were withered but then there were not many bushes together— the insects of course prefer the fresh flowers but are also plentiful on dry ones.—

Every 5 or 6 years we have a good season for insects and were it not for the manifold duties which keep me in Sydney I would be always out observing.— I shall ask Mr Masters5 my colleague who is a first class Entomologist and a professional gardener to try Long Bay again tomorrow and bring the flowers and what is on them in the shape of insects   I gave your original note to Dr Bennett and he has promised to stir some of his correspondents up to observe.—6

The wasps are more plentiful than other creatures on the flowers than the Buprestidæ Melolonthas and Cetonias various longicorns &c just as I send you a bottle full by book post.—7

I hope you will receive everything safe & I hope also that you will not put yourself out in writing to me   Only let me tell you what I know or have observed and dont think for a moment that I shall get lazy if you do not write. I am just now busy to reconstruct a Diprotodon and hope to convince my friends and enemies that the animal was a Phalanger and just between the Native Bear and Wombat.8

I got his legs, shoulder & pelvic girdle all right and mounted and am at the vertebræ & ribs now.—

more next mail   I shall take your advice & write the book—9 but I dare not speak out as I like to, or I will have been Curator “for the longest time”, because there is no greater offence as when you hurt a mans vanity—and I assure you the Vanity of our men of science—or better Collectors of specimens and accumulators of hard names—is great in proportion as their pursuit is useless. Original observations are out of the question with such men, they are mere Collectors and are the greatest drawback to the success of this Institution because by their constant interference and insatiable desire to possess everything themselves they would have long ago disgusted a less stouter heart than mine.—10

There is nothing like hoping for better things and with my best wishes for your speedy recovery I remain | dear Mr Darwin | Yours very | sincerely | Gerard Krefft

P.S. | I bought a ♀ pig from New Guinea which after about 3 months time presented me with 3 young;—one striped like our common european wild pig the other two black with white feet; one—the boar—has 2 brown stripes on the loins (the fully brown striped & the plain black one are females.—) This pig is very intelligent follows me like a dog up and down stairs & often scratched at the library-door for hours till I let her in. I put her into an enclosure and after a few attempts to get out she made a clear jump through a small window about 2 feet square and four feet 6 inch off the ground. She did not cut herself but hurt her head internally and bleeding dreadfully rushed down the back stairs into the basement then up another flight of steps, which is a very steep one, and into my room snorting and trying to draw my attention to her   Of course I put her into comfortable quarters and had to feed her for about a month with my hands after which she got better and I allowed her to run about   she never destroyed anything, but a few days before her “confinement” she pulled all my Bananas down ripped them into shreads cut a young fig tree up and behaved like a cracy pig.— I thought it was going to rain hard & as the damage was done I did not disturb her. Judge of my astonishment when I found 3 little ones in the Bannana litter the next day.— The family is getting on well.—

Now I believe that this pig was lined by a common boar either in N. Guinea or on board H.MS. Basilisk—11 if so it proves that the Common wild & the present N. Guinea pig interbreed and are probably varieties of each other only.— The skulls of both animals are much alike, but the last molar is larger in the Sus scrofa.12 The hair resembles that of the wild boar though it is much thinner; there is also a white patch along the snout.— The pig is fond of all womankind & has probably been suckled by a woman a common occurance in New Guinea.—


The young had canines half an inch long on the first day already


Ch Darwin Esq FRS | Down, Beckenham


CD sent his autograph with the letter to Gerard Krefft, [September 1873]. Krefft refers to Henry Parkes.
Krefft had previously discovered early human traces in the Wellington Caves of New South Wales (see Correspondence vol. 20, letter from Gerard Krefft, 15 May 1872).
The insect order Orthoptera includes grasshoppers, crickets, and locusts; the former order Homoptera included aphids, scale-insects, cicadas, and leafhoppers.
Long Bay is north of Sydney, Australia.
George Masters.
See letter to Gerard Krefft, [September 1873]. George Bennett was the first secretary of the Australian Museum (Aust. dict. biog.).
Buprestidae is the family of jewel beetles. Melolontha is a genus of beetles that includes the cockchafers; Cetonia is the genus that includes the rose-chafer.
Diprotodon is a fossil giant wombat, and the largest known marsupial. The possum genus Phalanger contains some marsupials (cuscuses). See also letter from Gerard Krefft, [after 12 July 1873] and n. 7.
For more on the politics at the Australian Museum in the 1870s, see T. Bennett 2004, pp. 78 and 139.
HMS Basilisk was a paddle sloop launched in 1848; after service in the Crimean War and North America, West Indies and China stations, the Basilisk commenced service on the Australia station in 1871. It was used in hydrographic surveys around New Guinea before returning to England in 1874. (Bastock 1988.)
Sus scrofa is the wild boar.


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Bastock, John. 1988. Ships on the Australia station. Frenchs Forest, Australia: Child & Associates.

Bennett, Tony. 2004. Pasts beyond memory: evolution, museums, colonialism. London: Routledge.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Many insects visit Eucalyptus flowers as long as there is pollen to be seen. Asking his colleague, George Masters, to gather insects and flowers at Long Bay for CD.

Observations on wild New Guinea pig in captivity.

Will take CD’s advice to write a book.

Letter details

Letter no.
Johann Louis Gerard (Gerard) Krefft
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Australian Museum, Sydney
Source of text
DAR 169: 121
Physical description
12pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9124,” accessed on 3 August 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21