skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From V. O. Kovalevsky   25 May 1874


May 25 1874

Dear Sir!

I have been some two months occupied by geology in different small places of Central & South France and only two days ago in the Museum of Perigueux. I found the last Number of Gervais’ Journal of Zoology announcing Huxley’s death.1 This is really hard to bear and it did strike me as if I had lost a brother. This is certainly the greatest loss not only for Science but for human progress in General, which could occur,— Huxley, Hancock, Phillips— what a mourning year for Zoology.2 You will greatly oblige me by favouring me with a line giving some particulars of this most unhappy event.— Besides I know Professor Huxley had no large private means and a considerable family, will the Government do something to place the family above the reach of want or will it be done by private subscription as in the case of Sars;3 in this latter case I will take the liberty to observe that Mr Huxley was not only an Englishman but a member of the great Republic of Science and all scientific men of all countries may take a right to take part in raising a fund for the family of one of their first leaders. For my part I have a belief that should such a suscription really be organised we could hope for a large sum from scientific people in our country beeing suscribed, as Huxley was very popular in Russia.—

Excuse the incoherent manner of this letter, I write it in a great hurry. The last time I have been taken up with the investigation of some freshwater deposits of the chalk and I have large Cyrenas, Unio and Melaniae from the Gault upwards to the White Chalk period.—4

I am alone in Paris and will return in a few days to Berlin, but please adress Your letter—Paris Rue Linné 31 bis, au 1r.

Your truly | W. Kowalevsky


The false report of Thomas Henry Huxley’s death appeared in Journal de zoologie 3 (1874): 48. The journal was edited by Paul Gervais, and a retraction was printed on p. 151.
Kovalevsky refers to Albany Hancock, who died on 24 October 1873, and John Phillips, who died on 24 April 1874 (ODNB).
After Michael Sars died in 1869, evidently his wife, Maren Cathrine, and his eight surviving children (NBL) received a subscription. In 1873, several friends of Huxley, including CD, raised a subscription to help him through financial difficulties during a period of ill health (see Correspondence vol. 21, letter to subscribers to T. H. Huxley’s gift, [25 April 1873]).
Cyrena (a synonym of Corbicula) is a genus of bivalve molluscs; Unio is a genus of freshwater mussels; Melania (a synonym of Thiara) is a genus of freshwater snails. Gault is the formation of stiff blue clay deposited during the early Cretaceous period, and white chalk was deposited during the later Cretaceous period.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

NBL: Norsk biografisk leksikon. Edited by Edvard Bull et al. 19 vols. Oslo: H. Aschehoug & Co. 1923–83.

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.


Regret at reading of Huxley’s death [a false report].

Letter details

Letter no.
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (Владимир Онуфриевич Ковалевский)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 97
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9469,” accessed on 14 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22