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Darwin Correspondence Project

From V. O. Kovalevsky   18 February 1871


18 Febr. 1871.—

Dear Sir!

To day is the fourteenth day of our stay in Paris,1 we got there from Berlin with many difficulties and had to wait a long time at Head Quarters to have a pass; we should have waited much longer, as in the first time the passes into Paris where delivered with difficulty, had we not resolved to run the blockade and starting on foot from Versailles happily passed the lines and entered Paris, certainly I and my wife2 had to make some 25 miles walking, but the excitement was so great that we did not much feel the fatigue. We found my sister in law3 safe only a little thinned by the 30 grammes ration of meat. The other day I visited the Collections, but there is no serious damage done, as nearly all has been concealed in the cellars.4 The first days of the bombardement even the Lectures of the Sorbonne were not discontinued and only after receiving some ten bombs they stopped lecturing, but recomenced it now. I have seen Mr. Herbert and Gaudry and they both are in a serious fright that the Prussians will rob the collections as they have robbed all private and public collections in the environs of Paris.5

Still we had a little misfortune at the time of passage through the Prussian lines, namely we lost a small bag which contained among other things the 2, 8, 9 and 10x) sheets of the second volume of Your book on Man.6 I do not know if the work is published now, and if possible I shall be most thankfull to You if You had the kindness in sending me to Berlin the last sheets (I received the 2d vol to the page 160) to add theres four sheets if You can find them without difficulty in Your proof sheets. We return to morrow to Berlin and I should pray You to send the sheets Berlin, Georgienstrasse 7.

My wife sends her compliments to Mrs Darwin and the ladies.—7

Yours very truly | W. Kowalevsky

x pag. 17–32; 113–160.


Kovalevsky wrote to CD on 29 January 1871 telling him that he planned to go to Paris the following day. The siege of Paris ended on 28 January 1871 (Wawro 2003).
Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya.
Anna Korvin-Krukovskaya. See letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 15 January [1871] and n. 3.
Kovalevsky presumably refers to the collections of the Muséum d’histoire naturelle.
Auberon Edward William Molyneux Herbert, MP for Nottingham, was present as an observer during the Franco-Prussian War and was one of the first to enter Paris once the siege was lifted (ODNB). Kovalevsky also refers to Albert Gaudry, a French palaeontologist based at the Muséum d’histoire naturelle.
Kovalevsky was translating Descent into Russian; the translation was published as [V. O. Kovalevsky] trans. 1871–2 (see letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 14 March 1871 and n. 4).
Kovalevsky refers to Emma, Henrietta Emma, and Elizabeth Darwin.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Wawro, Geoffrey. 2003. The Franco-Prussian war: the German conquest of France in 1870–1871. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


VOK and his wife walked 25 miles through the Prussian lines to Paris.

Natural history collections undamaged by bombardment, but Edmond Hébert and A. J. Gaudry fear Prussians will rob them.

Several sheets of Descent lost as they passed through the lines.

Letter details

Letter no.
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (Владимир Онуфриевич Ковалевский)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 87
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7488,” accessed on 14 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19