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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Hugh Falconer   17 December [1859]


Dec. 17th.

My dear Falconer

Whilst I think of it let me tell you that years ago I remember seeing in the Museum of the Geolog. Soc. a tooth of Hippopotamus from Madagascar: this on geographical and all other grounds ought to be looked to.1 Pray make a note of this fact. We have returned a week ago from Ilkley, and it has done me some decided good. In London I saw Lyell (the poor man who has “rushed into the bosom of two heresies”) (by the way I saw his celts, and how intensely interesting)2 and he told me that you were very antagonistic to my views on species. I well knew this would be the case. I must freely confess the difficulties and objections are terrific; but I cannot believe that a false theory would explain, as it seems to me it does explain, so many classes of facts. Do you ever see Wollaston; He and You would agree nicely about my Book,3 —ill-luck to both of you. If you have anything at all pleasant for me to hear do write; and if all that you can say is very unpleasant, it will do you good to expectorate. And it is well known that you are very fond of writing letters.4 Farewell my good old friend and enemy.

Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin

Do make a note about the Hippopotamus. If you are such a gentleman as to write pray tell me how Torquay agrees with your health


The fossil tusk was reported in Telfair 1833 and noted by CD in Notebook C, p. 216e (Notebooks). Falconer reported to the Geological Society of London on 4 May and 22 June 1859 on the results of his recent explorations of bone caves in Italy. He had identified bones found in Sicilian caves as belonging to two species of hippopotamus; this suggested to him that Sicily and Africa had formerly been connected (see C. Murchison ed. 1868, 2: 543–53).
Thomas Vernon Wollaston was a friend of CD’s and had discussed the possibility of species transmutation with him and other guests at a weekend party at Down in 1856, Wollaston being the ‘least unorthodox’ (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from Charles Lyell, 1–2 May 1856, n. 7). In 1860, he published a critical review of Origin ([Wollaston] 1860).
Falconer’s dilatory habits were well known among his friends. When Joseph Dalton Hooker was travelling in India, he complained to CD that Falconer, serving as his contact in Calcutta, never wrote to him or forwarded his letters. See Correspondence vol. 4.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Notebooks: Charles Darwin’s notebooks, 1836–1844. Geology, transmutation of species, metaphysical enquiries. Transcribed and edited by Paul H. Barrett et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the British Museum (Natural History). 1987.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Telfair, Charles. 1833. Notice of a conglomerate from Madagascar, containing fragments of a tusk of a hippopotamus. Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 1 (1826– 33): 479.

[Wollaston, Thomas Vernon]. 1860a. Review of Origin of species. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 5: 132–43. Reprinted in Hull 1973, pp. 127–40. [Vols. 6,7,8]


Suggests HF investigate hippopotamus tooth.

Has heard HF is very antagonistic to his views on species. Cannot believe a false theory would explain so many classes of facts.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Hugh Falconer
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 144: 22
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2587,” accessed on 19 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7