From S. P. Woodward 15 July 1856
July 15th 1856.
Your question was answd almost by express anticipation in my paper at the Zool. Socy last week,1 —on the L. & Fr. water shells of Tibet & Kashmir,2 but as that will not be printed just yet I will endeavour to make out the list when I return home to-night. 3
I proposed to consider 20 of M. Deshayes4 Cyrenæ (Corbiculæ) as geographical varieties of one species. (C. fluminalis, Müll) Since after examining Mr Cuming’s collection & ours I can find no characters by which a miscellaneous mixture could be sorted.5 Philip Carpenter also glanced at them—& said it was like the case he was investigating (Calyptræa) in which varieties of the same species were rated as members of distinct “sub-genera” by H & A. Adams.6
The “species” which may be most safely referred to Cyrena fluminalis, are diag C. ambigua, Desh. Euphrates
Cor, Lam. Nile
consobrina, Caillaud. Alexandrian Canal
Sea of Tiberius
triangularis, Desh. (no locality but exactly like
specimens from Alex. Canal)
Panormitana, Bivon Sicily.
Gemmellarii Phil. Fossil, Sicily.
trigonula, Searles Wood—Brit.
Cashmiriensis, Desh. Kashmir—
radiata, Phi. Nile—Indiaramme
The C. occidens (Benson) Sikkim, & C Bengalensis Desh. C. striatella, Desh. Pondicherry are only specimens a little more “transverse”.
The same shell when found in China (which was not so far from Noah’s Ark as ultima Thule) has another set of names— diag C. fluviatilis, Müll
Woodiana, Lea &cramme
In the Peninsula it becomes C. Malaccensis, Desh. in Java C. compressa (Mousson)7
Sir Chas Lyell was at the Meeting & said that Dr Hooker would reduce the reduce the reputed Indian Flora at the rate of 19 to 1—; and made some sharp remarks on species-making & the “present state of Conchology”—8
Gray,9 who was in the chair, went still further & (Cuming being present!) denounced the greater part of the reputed shells as “dealers’ species”.
In the last number of the “Annals” my friend Mr Benson has drawn a very fine distinction between Clausilia Rolphii of Charlton & a specimen of the so-called Cl. Mortilleti from Charing—10 I told him before-hand I didn’t believe or understand it—& now I have sent him down a lot of the Charlton Shell which are all Cl. Mortilleti!! so that “species” is annihilated, at least for a while. However Mr Benson is a gentleman & a philosopher—& will acknowledge his error!
Lastly, have you the most admirable book in which the great question of “creative action” is treated— Dr Harvey’s “Seaside Book” (Van Voorst)11 Because if not, you ought to get it immediately—& having read the first & last chapters—give it to that young lady of your family who has most sympathy with “the sunshine & the calm of mute, insensate things”.
I presume you are acquainted with Dr Pickering’s “Races of Man”12 —& with that chapter in which, when discussing the probable scene of the Creation of man, he speaks more respectfully of the Orang & Gorilla than Agassiz does of “our black brethren”.13 It is fortunate for those of us who respect our ancestors & repudiate even the contamination of Negro blood—that Agassiz remains, to do battle with the transmutationists
Yours sincerely | S. P. Woodward Chas Darwin Esq.
Has reduced 20 Cyrena species to geographical varieties of one species, Cyrena fluminalis. Hooker is reducing Indian flora at the rate of 19 to 1.
Recommends W. H. Harvey’s Seaside book  and Charles Pickering’s Races of man .
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1927,” accessed on 22 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-1927