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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Amy Ruck to Horace Darwin   [20 January 1872]1

Pantlludw, | Machynlleth.

Dear Horace

I am afraid I have nothing worth telling about worms. I have been rather in despair   this seems such a bad country for them as a “worm casting” is quite a rare sight   even on our croquet ground where one might expect to see them, there is very few. Atty2 declares there are a dozen moles to every worm here— However on the top of the Hill there are some steep slopes ploughed about 50 or 60 years ago & we have done some digging & measuring there with these results— the furrows going chiefly crossways—


We found that the fine soil at the top of the slope was always shallower, being in the furrows at the top 212 inches, at the bottom 412; & that there was always about half an inch difference in the depth of the soil in the ridge & in the furrow, that in the furrow being deepest. We tried a good many times & always found this difference—

It is rare to find furrows running down a slope, but we came across a few in a basin, last ploughed during the Peninsular War—& there they almost disappeared at the bottom—the depth of the furrow between the ridges being at the top 412in. at the bottom 1in.3 Papa says, there is a place near his old home Newington called ‘Worm Dale, where they do wonders—4 Dicky & Lenny5 might go & look at it.

My thanks to you for wading through this. | ARR.

CD annotations

1.2 “worm casting”] underl blue crayon
1.2 quite a rare sight 1.3] underl blue crayon
1.4 dozen … here— ] underl blue crayon
2.3 the depth … 1in. 2.4] scored blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘Jan 20th— 1872’ ink; ‘Weigh | Leonard’ pencil, del pencil


The date is established by CD’s annotation.
Arthur Ashley Ruck, Amy’s brother.
CD reported these findings in Earthworms, pp. 295–6. The Peninsular War took place in Portugal and Spain between 1807 and 1814.
Lawrence Ruck referred to Wormdale Hill near Newington in Kent.
Richard Matthews Ruck (Amy’s brother), and Leonard Darwin.


Earthworms: The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1881.


Describes the occurrence of earthworms and the signs of earthworm activity in the neighbourhood.

Letter details

Letter no.
Amy Richenda (Amy) Ruck/Amy Richenda (Amy) Darwin
Horace Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176: 221
Physical description
4pp †(by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8168,” accessed on 25 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20