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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Gerard Krefft   8 August 1873

Australian Museum Sydney

August 8 1873

Dear Mr Darwin

I enclose a paper (not finished) about Primitive man—1 there is very little what is new in it and I only wrote it to enlighten the people here on your theory. Let us be thankful for small favours, and if I did not do you justice I have at all events tried to explain as well as I could what we are and where we come from. The “Mail” belongs to Mr Fairfax Proprietor of the “Herald” rather a thorough believer in revealed Religion though he allows me to give an opinion now and then as long as do not come it too strong2

I had a visit yesterday from the Bishop of Bathurst (you know the place)3   he brought me some old nail or spike found in Wales which I accepted with thanks   I asked him afterwards if he did not come across any stone weapons and he said no; remarking at the same time that I probably alluded to the weapons which have been found in france and from which people wanted to prove the age of the human race

I said these were the things I alluded to, but declined going into particulars regarding their age because no person could tell how many thousand or millions of years that amounted to. I exhibited a large number of photographs of such weapons to “His Lordship” & asked him to send me some if he should meet with any which he promised to do.—

I send you by book post the bits of earth made by the worms & a Catalogue of the Australian Lepidoptera4 & I also enclose a translation of a few verses not done into english by Mr Dallas when he he did the “man of the present past & future”5 & I hope you will not think the worse of me because I tried my hand at such things as “Das Ding an sich

Yours sincerely | Gerard Krefft


“Das Ding an sich”


order was darunter verstanden wird7

The “thing by itself

from the German of Dr Büchner Thing by itsel’ I love you well You thing of everything Only a fool A stubborn uncle Despises you my thing


I cannot tell Your face quite well If fair it is or brown If made indeed Of rock or reed If standing, up or down


If young or old If hot or cold If straight it is or crooked If fond of tricks If right as bricks If always smart or stupid


Its all the same The old old game The thing we know so well Nothing is true And nothing new Except the thing itsel’

Büchners “Man &c Translation by Dallas p 342

Sydney Aug 8 1873 Gerard Krefft

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Earth | Catalogue | Photographs | &c &c’ pencil


Krefft’s paper has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL. He may have sent CD the first three instalments of his article ‘Savages, fossil and recent’, which appeared in the Sydney Mail on 19 and 26 July and 2 and 16 August 1873 (Krefft 1873).
John Fairfax purchased the Sydney Herald with a partner in 1841, becoming sole proprietor in 1853, and in 1860 launched a second paper, the Sydney Mail, an eight-page weekly ‘for the man in the country’ (Aust. dict. biog., Fairfax 1941, p. 147). Fairfax was a deacon in the Congregational church, and was well known for his tolerance (Aust. dict. biog.).
Matthew Quinn. Bathurst is in New South Wales, Australia; CD had visited it in January 1836 while on the Beagle voyage (Journal of researches 2d ed., pp. 432–6).
In his letter of 12 July [1873], CD had asked for information about wormcastings in Australia. In Earthworms, pp. 122–3, CD described the castings sent by Krefft. The catalogue has not been found, but Krefft probably sent the Catalogue of the described diurnal Lepidoptera of Australia prepared by the assistant curator of the museum, George Masters (Masters 1873).
William Sweetland Dallas translated Ludwig Büchner’s work on human origins, Man in the past, present and future (Büchner 1872).
The poem appears in Büchner 1872, pp. 342–3, in its original German. Krefft’s translation is not entirely accurate.
Always with the apron | or what is understood underneath.


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Büchner, Ludwig. 1872. Man in the past, present and future. A popular account of the results of recent scientific research as regards the origin, position and prospects of the human race. Translated by William Sweetland Dallas. London: Asher & Co.

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

Fairfax, John Fitz-Gerald. 1941. The story of John Fairfax: commemorating the centenary of the Fairfax proprietary of the Sydney Morning Herald, 1841–1941. Sydney: J. Fairfax & Sons Pty.

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Krefft, Gerard. 1873. Savages, fossil and recent. Sydney Mail, 19 July 1873, p. 74; 26 July 1873, p. 106; 2 August 1873, p. 142; 16 August 1873, p. 210.

Masters, George. 1873. Catalogue of the described diurnal Lepidoptera of Australia. Sydney: Frederick White.


Sends paper to be published in Sydney Mail on primitive man.

Sends lists of earth [castings] made by worms [see Earthworms, p. 127],

and a catalogue of Australian Lepidoptera.

Letter details

Letter no.
Johann Louis Gerard (Gerard) Krefft
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Australian Museum, Sydney
Source of text
DAR 169: 119
Physical description
5pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9002,” accessed on 4 March 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21