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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Edward Nicholson   26 August [1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Aug. 26

Dear Sir

On my return home after a months’ holidays I found your work on Indian Snakes, which you have been so very kind as to send me.2 I am much pleased to observe that you have pointedly called attention to gradation of character with respect to the poison of snakes.—3 This subject has long interested me, & I have received an account from S. Africa, which makes me believe that the saliva of some of the non-venomous species there causes much irritation; but the account was not definite enough for publication.—4

I have no doubt that your work will be highly serviceable in many ways, & with my renewed thanks remain Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin

Footnotes

CD stayed with Thomas Henry Farrer at Abinger, Surrey, from 25 to 30 July 1874, and with his son William Erasmus Darwin in Southampton from 30 July to 24 August 1874 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). There is a very lightly annotated copy of Nicholson’s Indian snakes. An elementary treatise of ophiology (Nicholson 1874) in the Darwin Library–Down (Marginalia 1: 641–2).
CD stayed with Thomas Henry Farrer at Abinger, Surrey, from 25 to 30 July 1874, and with his son William Erasmus Darwin in Southampton from 30 July to 24 August 1874 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). There is a very lightly annotated copy of Nicholson’s Indian snakes. An elementary treatise of ophiology (Nicholson 1874) in the Darwin Library–Down (Marginalia 1: 641–2).
In Nicholson 1874, p. 10 and n., Nicholson remarked that there was a ‘clearly marked gradation of development’ in the poison-apparatus of snakes, and urged more research on points to which ‘the hypothesis of Darwin’ gave special importance.
The account may have been from Andrew Smith; in the manuscript of his ‘big book’ on species, CD recorded that Smith had told him that the bite of an apparently innocuous snake caused him more pain than could be accounted for by the puncture alone (Natural selection, p. 360).

Bibliography

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.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Nicholson, Edward. 1874. Indian snakes. An elementary treatise on ophiology with a descriptive catalogue of the snakes found in India and the adjoining countries. 2d edition. Madras: Higginbotham and Co.

Summary

Thanks EN for his book [Indian snakes, 2d ed. (1874)]. CD is pleased that it calls attention to gradation in the character of snake poison.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-9607
From
Charles Robert Darwin
To
Edward Nicholson
Sent from
Down
Postmark
AU 27 74
Source of text
Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
Physical description
2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9607,” accessed on 15 August 2020, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-9607.xml

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

letter