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Darwin Correspondence Project

From V. O. Kovalevsky   28 May [1871]1

Berlin Georgenstrasse 7.

28 May

Dear Sir

I got the small book of Körte and mustered it through without finding anything that could be of interest or use for You, but to clear all doubts, I send the volume to You that You may judje by Your own eyes.2 The book is from the Royal library and if possibly it should be returned in two weeks. You said quite true in Your last letter about the strange life we led these five months, and really we have seen much not to be forgotten. The end is more terrible I could ever think, and the wholesale murders going now in Paris are heartrending.3 Many of our friends are no more and the brave Docteur Parisel who opened for me all the Collections and gave full liberty for studying the palaeontological treasures of the Ecole des Mines is shot by order of some scoundrel as Gallifet or the like.4 Really I think that the Indian thugs were pleasant and tenderhearted people, if we compare them with what is known in all countries under the name of “friends of Order”. Have You read the circular of Favre, do You think possible that England shall deliver the few who escaped to be murdered by Picard & Cy, I hope not, it would be an eternal shame.5 The events are so dreadful that they must disgust every man from politics,—nearly 40,000 perishing for the wish to have their own Lord Mayor and Aldermens as You have in London, and as every small town have them in Germany; this and the absence of troops of the line from the city were the only wishes of the working population of Paris.

I am very busy now at Embryology and hope to finish it till August and then go to England for three months to see You and work in the London collections.6 If I am ready with my general studies I have an idea of a special investigation on which I should like very much to consult You, but I leave this matter till I shall be so happy as to see You personally and speak about it. I dont know did my brother anything about Your Queries, he leaved Suez two weeks ago and is now at Jaffa.7 My wife is working very hard and hopes to pass her examination this winter, the Parisian events robbed us of a precious time and peace of mind indispensable for serious study.8

With compliments to Mrs Darwin and the ladies9 | I am | Yours very truly | W. Kowalevsky


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to V. O. Kovalevsky, 3 May 1871.
CD had requested a translation of a passage in Körte 1829; however, the short title that CD gave to Kovalevsky corresponded to another work by Körte (Körte 1828), and this is apparently the volume that Kovalevsky sent. See letter to V. O. Kovalevsky, 3 May 1871 and n. 2.
Kovalevsky refers to the fighting that had broken out in Paris following the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian war. See letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 10 May 1871 and n. 1.
François Parisel served on a scientific delegation to the Paris Commune; he was sentenced to death but escaped to England (Dupont 1999). Gaston Alexandre Auguste, marquis de Galliffet, was a French general who played a leading role in the suppression of the Paris Commune in May 1871 (Tombs 1981).
Jules Claude Gabriel Favre and Louis Joseph Ernest Picard were both ministers for the French provisional government (known as the Government of National Defence) during the Franco-Prussian war (DBF and EB). Favre’s circular identifying the French ‘insurgents’ as criminals, and calling for their immediate arrest and extradition, was reported in The Times, 29 May 1871, p. 5.
Kovalevsky visited Down House on 15 October 1871 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
See letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 14 March 1871 and n. 3. Kovalevsky’s brother was Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky.
Kovalevsky’s wife, Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya, was studying mathematics in Berlin (Koblitz 1983, pp. 100–2).
Kovalevsky refers to Emma, Henrietta Emma, and Elizabeth Darwin.


DBF: Dictionnaire de biographie Française. Under the direction of J. Balteau et al. 21 vols. (A–Le Nain) to date. Paris: Librairie Letouzey & Ané. 1933–.

Dupont, Michel. 1999. Dictionnaire historique des médecins: dans et hors de la médecin. Paris: Larousse.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Koblitz, Ann Hibner. 1983. A convergence of lives: Sofia Kovalevskaia, scientist, writer, revolutionary. Boston: Birkhäuser.

Körte, Franz. 1828. Die Strich-, Zug- oder Wander-Heuschrecke, ihre Beschreibung, Verheerung in jetzigen und früheren Zeiten, und die Mittel zu ihrer Vertilgung. Berlin: August Rücker.

Körte, Franz Friedrich Ernst. 1829. Strich-, Zug- oder Wander-Heuschrecke vom Eie an beobachtet und beschrieben. Berlin: August Rücker.

Tombs, Robert. 1981. The war against Paris, 1871. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Reports on the wholesale murder in Paris.

His wife, Sofya Kovalevsky, is working for her examinations.

VOK is studying embryology.

Alexander has left Suez and is now in Jaffa.

Letter details

Letter no.
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (Владимир Онуфриевич Ковалевский)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 63
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7775,” accessed on 14 July 2020,

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