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Darwin Correspondence Project

From [J. M. Herbert]1   [early May 1831]2

If Mr. Darwin will accept the accompanying Coddington’s Microscope,3 it will give peculiar gratification to one who has long doubted whether Mr. Darwin’s talents or his sincerity be the more worthy of admiration, and who hopes that the instrument may in some measure facilitate those researches which he has hitherto so fondly and so successfully prosecuted.


In a letter to Herbert, 21 November 1872 (APS 425), CD says, ‘Do you remember giving me anonymously a microscope? I can hardly call to mind any event in my life which surprised & gratified me more.’
See letter to W. D. Fox, [11 May 1831], the source of the approximate date of this letter.
Of three microscopes on display at Down House, one bearing the maker’s name of ‘Cary’ corresponds in structure to that described by Henry Coddington in a paper read in 1830 to the Cambridge Philosophical Society (Coddington 1830). Professor Phillip Sloan of the University of Notre Dame, who has examined the instrument in connection with his study of CD’s microscopy, has concluded that it is the one referred to in this letter. Herbert may have given Coddington’s name to the instrument because it had been built by George and John Cary, London instrument makers, according to Coddington’s specifications; it used an improved lens, which though not invented by Coddington was commonly called after him.


Coddington, Henry. 1830. On the improvement of the microscope. [Read 22 March 1830.] Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 3: 421–8.


Asks CD to accept a Coddington microscope, which accompanies his anonymous note.

Compliments CD on talent and sincerity.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Maurice Herbert
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204: 35
Physical description
AL 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 99,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1