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Darwin Correspondence Project

To C. L. Denison   14 January 1874

6 Queen Anne St W

Jan 14 1874


Having lately read with extreme interest “Varieties of Vice-Regal life”,1 I have thought that you will perhaps excuse the liberty I take in asking you to give me some information, if in your power, about the inhabitants of Norfolk I. It is notorious that these people increased rapidly in Pitcairn’s I., & the point which I am anxious to learn is whether, after their removal to Norfolk I., they continued to increase as rapidly as before. I fear that it is hardly probable that I could any how ascertain their numbers when first brought to Norfolk I., the number of those who left the Island, & their number at any recent date.2

In the animal & vegetable kingdoms it is certain that very slight changes of conditions sometimes affect the fertility of species in a marvellous manner, & I much desire to ascertain whether any thing of this kind has occurred in Norfolk Island—

I am fully aware that I have much reason to apologize for the liberty which I am taking.

I beg leave to remain | your Ladyship’s | obedient servant | Charles Darwin


Shortly before his death in 1871, William Thomas Denison had written Varieties of vice-regal life (Denison 1870), much of which was in epistolary form, on his experiences as a colonial administrator.
The arrival of Pitcairn Islanders at Norfolk Island is discussed in Denison 1870, 1: 360–3. Pitcairn Island is in the southern Pacific Ocean. First inhabited by Tahitians and mutineers from HMS Bounty in 1789, it became a British colony in 1838. In 1856, when it was decided that the population was too great, the entire community moved to Norfolk Island, a former penal colony. Many people returned to Pitcairn within the next few years. Denison was governor of New South Wales at the time and responsible for final approval of the distribution of land on Norfolk Island.


Denison, William. 1870. Varieties of vice-regal life. 2 vols. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.


Seeks information on the number of Pitcairn islanders and the effect on their fertility of the transfer to Norfolk Island.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Caroline Lucy Denison
Sent from
London, Queen Anne St, 6
Source of text
National Library of Australia (MS 73)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9241,” accessed on 23 September 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22