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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Cresy   10 September 1865

Bude. Cornwall.

10 Septr ’65—

My dear Sir.

Your note1 reached me here yesterday where I have been spending a month most agreeably walking and sketching or rather smudging to be accurate—& I must say that though roughish the civilisation of Cornwall is much pleasanter than the want of it in New Brunswick2   I am reminded of my last summer’s trip by a blue nose brig with a regular blue nose skipper & blue nose crew3 having just come to grief here   he takes it easy saying it t’aint a place & didn’t ought to be down in the chart.

I am truly sorry I was out or rather away when George called but hope he will look me up again before he returns to Cambridge.4 I shall be at the office on Thursday & Friday & perhaps Saturday but shall ask him to drop me a line to say which day he will call as I have to look after some out of door matters.—5 But it would be much pleasanter if his time allows if he will come & dine with me & sleep at my house any day after the 24th. as I shall then be back for good & till then shall be standing off & on—6

We are both greatly concerned to hear you have been so unwell.7 Although you have many active disciples still your own illness is a national calamity especially when we are all so anxious to see your views extending— It is satisfactory though to see how they are extending. I brought Vogt’s lectures on man just published by the Anthropological Society with me to read here & see that although strongly opposed to Lamarck he confesses to complete conversion to Darwinism—8 If you have not read him you will be amused at his Huxleyan outspokenness,9 still more at the excessive naïveté of the translator Dr James Hunt who struck out a few passages as likely to offend pious people but to mollify the savan’s indignation at his want of courage he his printed the omitted matter in the Appendix!10 though why these should horrify people more than much which he has left in puzzles me to see.

I must tell you of a very beautiful because remarkably homely illustration of your solution of one of the difficulties of Nat selection viz the hexagonal combs. We had a plumb pudding for dinner & from the cook having exactly hit the right tenacity & thinness of crust it came up a complete sphere mapped out with hexagonal articulations, not here & there a pasty hexagon but the whole covered with exact regular hexagons— By guesswork each plumb should have punched just a swelling & then a round hole for itself like a round shot through a plank but I suppose the strain came to equally on all parts of the crust so the spherical plumbs laid the foundation, without any instinctive knowledge of a series of regular hexagonal combs—11

Ask George to write to Spring Gardens.12 My wife desires kindest remembrances to yourself & Mrs & Miss Darwin.—13 she has benefitted immensely here—

Very truly yours | E Cresy

C Darwin Esq


Letter to Edward Cresy, 7 September [1865].
New Brunswick is one of the Maritime Provinces of eastern Canada. Cresy had visited the United States and Canada in the summer of 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from Edward Cresy, 29 July 1864).
‘Blue-nose’: Nova Scotian (OED).
CD had asked if his son George Howard Darwin could visit Cresy to discuss his future career (see letter to Edward Cresy, 7 September [1865] and n. 2).
Cresy was the principal clerk at the Metropolitan Board of Works (Post Office London directory 1865).
Cresy resided in Alleyn Road, Lower Norwood, Surrey (Post Office London suburban directory 1865).
Cresy refers to himself and his wife Mary Louis Cresy. See letter to Edward Cresy, 7 September [1865] and n. 3.
Carl Vogt’s Lectures on man (Vogt 1864) was translated and edited by James Hunt and published for the Anthropological Society of London by Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts. CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 824). Vogt relates how, when he opposed earlier theories of transmutation, such as that of Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, he was ‘much prejudiced by received opinions’, and claimed that his gradual acceptance of CD’s version of the theory was the result of ‘continued self-instruction’ (Vogt 1864, pp. 446–7). See also Correspondence vol. 12, letter from Ernst Haeckel, 9 [July 1864].
Thomas Henry Huxley had expressed his enthusiastic support for CD in print on numerous occasions (see, for example, T. H. Huxley 1860b) and had publicly defended CD’s theory against some of its critics (see A. Desmond 1994–7, 1: 260–5, 276–81). In a letter to CD, Cresy had recently referred to Huxley’s ‘boldly proclaiming his faith in Darwinism’ in a lecture at the Royal Institution (see letter from Edward Cresy, 9 June 1865 and n. 7).
A one-page appendix was placed at the end of Vogt 1864. It contained passages that Hunt, the president of the Anthropological Society, had excised from the main body of the text, such as the observations that Byzantine artists gave the Madonna ape-like arms, or that the ape brain most similar to that of humans belonged to the ‘devil’s ape’ (Ateles belzebuth, a spider monkey; see Vogt 1864, p. 470).
In Origin, pp. 224–35, CD had explained how the hexagonal cell produced by hive-bees could have developed by a simple principle of gradation. He considered how the cells of the Mexican Melipona bee, which had flat sides at points where the spherical shapes intersected, were intermediate between the simple rounded cells of the humble-bee and the perfect hexagonal cells of the hive-bee. He argued that the hive-bees’ ability to make perfectly hexagonal cells was not so difficult to explain as it might appear, because the hexagonal walls were only formed when equidistant circular cells intersected at flat walls of wax added by the bees. Thus, the hexagonal shape, the most efficient for optimal storage, was a by-product of the spacing of circular cells. CD’s notes on the structure of bee-cells are in DAR 48B.
The address of the Metropolitan Board of Works (Post Office London directory 1865).
Emma and Henrietta Emma Darwin.


Reading Carl Vogt [Lectures on man (1864)].

Vogt, though anti-Lamarck, is converted to Darwinism.

Letter details

Letter no.
Cresy, Edward, Jr
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 245
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4892,” accessed on 24 January 2017,