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To W. E. Darwin   8 February [1881]



Thanks WED for sending leaves and making observations on how earthworms drag them into their burrows.

Doubts justice of fierce review against J. Geikie’s book [Prehistoric Europe (1881)] in Nature [by W. B. Dawkins, 23 (1881): 309–10], but if reindeer and hippopotamus have really been found in close contact in same bed – "it tells horribly against interglacial periods".

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  William Erasmus Darwin
Date:  8 Feb [1881]
Classmark:  DAR 210.6: 176
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13042

From Ernst Haeckel   9 February 1881


Sends birthday wishes.

Comments on Movement in plants.

Sends System der Ascrapeden [1880].

Describes work on Challenger Medusae.

Comments on success of CD’s theory.

Author:  Ernst Philipp August (Ernst) Haeckel
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  9 Feb 1881
Classmark:  DAR 166: 77
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13043

To Ernst Haeckel   9 February 1881


Asks EH to call on Zeiss and to help arrange for microscope for Francis Darwin.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Ernst Philipp August (Ernst) Haeckel
Date:  9 Feb 1881
Classmark:  Ernst-Haeckel-Haus
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13044

To R. D. Fitzgerald   9 February 1881


Thanks for pt 6 of [Australian orchids].

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Robert David Fitzgerald
Date:  9 Feb 1881
Classmark:  Mitchell Library, Sydney (A 2546)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13045

From Anthony Rich   9 February 1881


Contemptuous of Samuel Butler.

Has read that Huxley will be Inspector of Fisheries.

When CD visits in spring, he will acquaint him with legalities of Worthing house.

Author:  Anthony Rich
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  9 Feb 1881
Classmark:  DAR 176: 145
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13046

To W. W. Baxter   9 February 1881


Orders vaseline and pomatum – the latter to put on his beard, which in dry weather feels uncomfortably harsh.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  William Walmisley Baxter
Date:  9 Feb 1881
Classmark:  Bromley Historic Collections, Bromley Central Library (Baxter Collection, 1136/1)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13047

From Ernst Krause   10 February 1881



Birthday greetings.

Thinks it best not to reply further to Butler. Has read G. J. Romanes’ article with great pleasure. Romanes is right to ridicule Butler. Quotes passages about Butler from CD letters. Has received letter from F. M. Balfour urging him not to reply to Butler.

Author:  Ernst Ludwig (Ernst) Krause
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  10 Feb 1881
Classmark:  DAR 92: B63–4
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13048

From Francis Darwin to Ernst Krause   [after 10 February 1881]


CD thanks him for his congratulations and for details of letters, which he will keep with the Butlerian documents.

FD is happy for his lecture to be republished in Kosmos.

Author:  Francis Darwin
Addressee:  Ernst Ludwig (Ernst) Krause
Date:  [after 10 Feb 1881]
Classmark:  The Huntington Library (HM 36219)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13048F

To G. J. Romanes   11 February 1881


Thanks GJR for his second letter replying to Butler [Nature 23 (1880–1): 335–6].

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  George John Romanes
Date:  11 Feb 1881
Classmark:  American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.582)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13049

To T. R. R. Stebbing   11 February 1881


Thanks him for his letter in Nature [23 (1880–1): 336, concerning Samuel Butler’s Unconscious Memory]. Explains how revision in Krause’s part [of Erasmus Darwin] and the subsequent misunderstanding came about.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Thomas Roscoe Rede Stebbing
Date:  11 Feb 1881
Classmark:  American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.583)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13050

From Josef Popper   11 February 1881



Interested in theory of flight machines. Thinks it may be possible to fly by hitching man to large birds. What does CD think?

Recalls gift of book sent to CD.

Author:  Josef Popper (Josef Popper-Lynkeus)
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  11 Feb 1881
Classmark:  DAR 201: 30
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13051

To Gaston de Saporta   13 [May] 1881


Thanks for work sent by GdeS and A. F. Marion [L’évolution du règne végétal 1 (1881)]. CD greatly pleased at boldness with which GdeS expresses his belief in evolution. Some of GdeS’s countrymen have been "a little timid" on this head.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Louis Charles Joseph Gaston (Gaston) de Saporta, comte de Saporta
Date:  13 [May] 1881
Classmark:  Archives Gaston de Saporta (private collection)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13052

From T. L. Brunton   14 February 1881



Forwards the preface to his book [see 12999] and comments on the effect of the Bible on science.

Author:  Thomas Lauder Brunton, 1st baronet
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  14 Feb 1881
Classmark:  DAR 160: 344
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13053

To Josef Popper   15 February 1881


Cannot help JP [with bird-powered flying machine].

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Josef Popper (Josef Popper-Lynkeus)
Date:  15 Feb 1881
Classmark:  Smithsonian Libraries and Archives (Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology MSS 405 A. Gift of the Burndy Library)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13054

From W. E. Darwin   16 February 1881


Brokers have purchased Leeds Corporation Stock.

Author:  William Erasmus Darwin
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  16 Feb 1881
Classmark:  Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 90)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13054F

To Grant Allen   17 February 1881


Thanks for Evolutionist at large [1881]. Envies GA’s power of writing. Some statements are too bold, but several of the views are new to CD and seem "extremely probable".

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Charles Grant Blairfindie (Grant) Allen
Date:  17 Feb 1881
Classmark:  Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13055

From W. E. Darwin   18 February 1881


Discusses the possible rebuilding of a pair of cottages on CD’s farm at Beesby, Lincolnshire.

Author:  William Erasmus Darwin
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  18 Feb 1881
Classmark:  Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 91)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13055F

From Anton Dohrn   18 February 1881


Belated birthday greetings

and reminiscences of CD’s help to the Station, which continues to prosper. A recent innovation is the establishment of the Zoologische Jahresbericht edited by J. V. Carus.

Author:  Felix Anton (Anton) Dohrn
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  18 Feb 1881
Classmark:  DAR 162: 221
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13056

From Grant Allen   19 February [1881]



Thanks for compliments on Evolutionist at large.

Reports on his improving health.

Author:  Charles Grant Blairfindie (Grant) Allen
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  19 Feb [1881]
Classmark:  DAR 159: 47
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13057

To W. E. Darwin   19 February [1881]


Uncle Erasmus is ill.

Thanks WED for his trouble about the cottages.

He has signed the note to Higgins.

CD has used WED’s Rhododendron case in Earthworms [p. 69].

Is using paper triangles in experiments on intelligence of worms.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  William Erasmus Darwin
Date:  19 Feb [1881]
Classmark:  Houghton Library, Harvard University (Autograph File, D)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-13058
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Darwin in letters, 1881: Old friends and new admirers


In May 1881, Darwin, one of the best-known celebrities in England if not the world, began writing about all the eminent men he had met. He embarked on this task, which formed an addition to his autobiography, because he had nothing else to do. He had…

Matches: 28 hits

  • … In May 1881, Darwin, one of the best-known celebrities in England if not the world, …
  • … was another source of pleasure in the early months of 1881. This book had been a major undertaking …
  • … making 2000’ ( letter to H. E. Litchfield, 4 January 1881 ). Unlike Darwin’s other books, …
  • … case is to me’ (letters to W. E. Darwin, 31 January [1881] and 19 February [1881] ). On 7 …
  • … individual experience ( letter from G. J. Romanes, 7 March 1881 ). The difficulty with earthworms …
  • … were trustworthy ( letter to Francis Galton, 8 March [1881] ). Although results from earlier …
  • … ‘a game of chance’ ( letter to R. F. Cooke, 12 April 1881 ). On 18 May he described his work on …
  • … annuals ( letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 21 March [1881] ). Darwin thought flowers of the semi- …
  • … sulky in a day or two’ ( letter to R. F. Cooke, 29 July 1881 ). The degree of Darwin’s distress …
  • … period of the season’ ( letter from R. F. Cooke, 30 July 1881 ). Darwin gave in. ‘I am now uneasy …
  • … teacher told him ( letter from C. E. Södling, 14 October 1881 ), while H. M. Wallis, who sent …
  • … general stock of knowledge’ ( letter to E. W. Bok, 10 May 1881 ). Josef Popper, an expert on …
  • … any criticism’ ( letter to C. G. Semper, 19 July 1881 ). He continued his friendly disagreement …
  • … of the Fuegians’ ( letter to W. P. Snow, 22 November 1881 ). Darwin received news about the …
  • … on the shoulder (l etter from B. J. Sulivan, 18 March 1881 ). Among numerous new …
  • … ( letter from Francisco de Arruda Furtado, 29 July 1881 ). Likewise, among the many books …
  • … excellent Journal’ ( letter to G. J. Romanes, 4 July [1881] ). In these ways, Darwin kept up with …
  • … conscious of it’ ( letter to Alexander Agassiz, 5 May 1881 ). His scientific friends, however, did …
  • … on all our minds’ ( letter to John Lubbock, [18 September 1881] ). When Hooker, anxious about his …
  • … much out’ of his mind ( letter to J. D. Hooker, 20 June [1881] ). Feeling ‘awfully guilty’ for …
  • … & many a good fight’ (letters to J. D. Hooker, 6 August 1881 and 12 August 1881 ). …
  • … on all physiologists’ ( letter to G. J. Romanes, 18 April 1881 ). A letter he had written to the …
  • … & tear of controversy’ ( letter to G. R. Jesse, 23 April 1881 ). Later in the year, Darwin …
  • … judgment on the subject ( letter to A. R. Wallace, 12 July 1881 ). However, some requests were …
  • … intelligent man’ ( letter from G. J. Romanes, 1 July [1881] ). Despite this, Darwin thanked ‘all …
  • … ‘go to the wall’ ( letter to G. H. Darwin, 19 November [1881] ). Darwin was as solicitous about …
  • … no pretensions’ (l etter from W. E. Darwin, 13 January [1881 ]), Darwin immediately prepared a …
  • … have occurred to him’ ( letter to Asa Gray, 29 January 1881 ). While Francis was …

Volume 29 (1881) is published!


In October 1881, Darwin published his last book, The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. A slim volume on a subject that many people could understand and on which they had their own opinions, it went…

Matches: 8 hits

  • … From the start of 1881, Darwin had his demise on his mind. He increasingly relied on his son …
  • … now available. Read more about Darwin's life in 1881  in our Life in letters series …
  • … received.    Letter t o Francis Darwin, 9 November [1881] In October 1881, Darwin …
  • …              Letter to A. B. Buckley, 4 January 1881 In January, Darwin heard that …
  • … do.            Letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 June 1881 The Darwins spent June in the …
  • …               Letter to W. E. Darwin, 4 August [1881] In early August, Darwin …
  • …               Letter to T. H. Farrer, 28 August 1881 Darwin’s elder brother, …
  • …          Letter t o B. J. Sulivan, 1 December 1881         …

Intellectual capacities: From Caroline Kennard, 26 December 1881


We might assume that among female admirers of Darwin’s work, many would have been disappointed by his views on the comparative intellectual capacities of the sexes expressed in The Descent of Man (1872). This was certainly true of the American feminist…

Matches: 2 hits

  • … as she clearly had not read  Descent  when, in December 1881, she heard a paper at the New England …
  • … Club (of which she was a staunch member). On 26 December 1881 , she wrote to ask Darwin ‘whether …

Terms of engagement: To Julius Wiesner, 25 October 1881


Thomas Huxley’s pugnacious public defence of evolution led to his nickname ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ and to a view of Darwin as an evader of controversy. Darwin firmly believed that controversy rarely did any good, but this did not mean that he avoided challenges…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … however, was tempered. Writing to Wiesner on 25 October 1881 , Darwin stated ‘I have no doubt …

Darwin in letters, 1882: Nothing too great or too small


In 1882, Darwin reached his 74th year Earthworms had been published the previous October, and for the first time in decades he was not working on another book. He remained active in botanical research, however. Building on his recent studies in plant…

Matches: 11 hits

  • … in Down, where his brother Erasmus had been interred in 1881. But some of his scientific friends …
  • … vol. 29, letter from Arthur de Souza Corrêa, 28 December 1881 ). Darwin had a long-running …
  • … last book, Earthworms , had been published in October 1881. It proved to be very popular, with …
  • … vol. 29, letter from J. F. Simpson, 8 November 1881 ). He remarked on the ‘far reaching …
  • … Correspondence vol. 29, letter to Emily Talbot, 19 July 1881 ) was also published in the …
  • … American, Caroline Kennard, had written on 26 December 1881 (see Correspondence vol. 29) to …
  • … on the topic of science and art. He had sat for Collier in 1881 for a portrait commissioned by the …
  • … letter from John Collier, 22 February 1882 ; T. H. Huxley 1881, pp. 199–245). Huxley used …
  • … discoverer of tidal evolution’ ( Nature , 24 November 1881, p. 81). Darwin boasted to Rich: …
  • … the birth of his first child (Erasmus Darwin) on 7 December 1881. Finally, Darwin had a second …
  • … by Lyell’s sister-in-law Katherine (see K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 445–6). A complete draft and …

Alexander Burns Usborne


Alexander Burns Usborne was born in Kendal, Westmorland, in 1808, the son of Alexander and Margaret Usborne; his father died in 1818 and in his will was described as the purser on HMS Hannibal. His son joined the navy in 1825 aged 16 as a second-class…

Matches: 2 hits

  • … one called Beagle , in Plymouth harbour, until 1881 . He died in 1885, aged 76. His sister …
  • … 1861 (RG 9/1428/56/38), 1871 (RG10/2106/42/4), 1881 (RG11/2185/145/41) L. S. Dawson. 1885. …

1.18 John Collier, oil in Linnean


< Back to Introduction By 1881 it was clear to Darwin’s intimates that he was increasingly frail, and that, as he approached death, he had finally escaped from religious controversy to become a heroic figure, loved and venerated for his achievements…

Matches: 7 hits

  • … < Back to Introduction By 1881 it was clear to Darwin’s intimates that he was …
  • … Society in 1858. Moreover, the Society was now, in May 1881, dominated by Darwinians. Its President …
  • … work and any other subject that cropped up.’ On 7 August 1881 Darwin was able to report to Romanes …
  • … of image John Collier 
 date of creation 1881 
 computer-readable date …
  • … archive, manuscript letter LL/8, Darwin to Romanes, 27 May 1881. Correspondence between Darwin and …
  • … Letter from Darwin to his son George, 23 July 1881, telling him the picture was finished (DCP-LETT …
  • … pp. 118–121, correspondence between Romanes and Darwin in 1881 (DCP-LETT-13173, 13229, 13282). …

Darwin in letters, 1880: Sensitivity and worms


‘My heart & soul care for worms & nothing else in this world,’ Darwin wrote to his old Shrewsbury friend Henry Johnson on 14 November 1880. Darwin became fully devoted to earthworms in the spring of the year, just after finishing the manuscript of…

Matches: 3 hits

  • … from scientific debate. The matter spilled over into January 1881. With Henrietta’s aid, the advice …
  • … bags ( letter from G. J. Romanes, [6, 13, or 20] March 1881 ). Romanes was at work on a lengthy …
  • … memorial was eventually submitted to Gladstone in January 1881 and was successful. For a copy of the …

Casting about: Darwin on worms


Earthworms were the subject of a citizen science project to map the distribution of earthworms across Britain (BBC Today programme, 26 May 2014). The general understanding of the role earthworms play in improving soils and providing nutrients for plants to…

Matches: 3 hits

  • … , with observations on their habits, which was published in 1881. Despite Darwin’s fears that a book …
  • … earthworms. Although his monograph was not published until 1881, he had long been interested in …
  • … anyone wd suppose’ ( letter to W. E. Darwin, 31 January [1881] (CUL DAR 210.6: 173)). …

Diagrams and drawings in letters


Over 850 illustrations from the printed volumes of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin have been added to the online transcripts of the letters. The contents include maps, diagrams, drawings, sketches and photographs, covering geological, botanical,…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … and the fertilisation of figs by Hymenoptera,  9 January 1881 CD's instructions to …

4.41 'Punch', Sambourne cartoon 2


< Back to Introduction In October 1881, Darwin was included in Linley Sambourne’s series of ‘Punch’s Fancy Portraits’ of celebrities as No. 54. While the caption recurs to the old theme of Darwin’s views on human ancestry, the drawing contains a more…

Matches: 3 hits

  • … < Back to Introduction In October 1881, Darwin was included in Linley Sambourne’s …
  • … Linley Sambourne 
 date of creation October 1881 
 computer-readable date 1881
  • … references and bibliography Punch vol. 81 (22 October 1881), p. 190. Janet Browne, Charles …

3.20 Elliott and Fry, c.1880-1, verandah


< Back to Introduction In photographs of Darwin taken c.1880-1, the expression of energetic thought conveyed by photographs of earlier years gives way to the pathos of evident physical frailty. While Collier’s oil portrait of this time emphasises…

Matches: 5 hits

  • … and Letters of his father (1887), and there it was dated 1881. However, another photograph from …
  • … by the National Portrait Gallery (NPG X5938) to 29 November 1881. However, Janet Browne points out …
  • … of sadness at that time. In a letter to Hooker of 15 June 1881, echoed in another to B.J. Sulivan of …
  • … of Elliott and Fry 
 date of creation c.1880-1881 
 computer-readable date c …
  • … and bibliography letters from Darwin to Hooker, 15 June 1881 (DCP-LETT-13207) and to B.J. Sulivan, …

Darwin's bad days


Despite being a prolific worker who had many successes with his scientific theorising and experimenting, even Darwin had some bad days. These times when nothing appeared to be going right are well illustrated by the following quotations from his letters:

Matches: 1 hits

  • … Despite being a prolific worker who had many successes with his scientific theorising and …

Exercise: Caricatures of Science


Caricatures provide intriguing insights into both ideals and transgressions of gender. The following six images show caricatured representations of nineteenth-century men and women of science. They provide insight into the boundaries of what was deemed …

Matches: 1 hits

  • … align="aligncenter" width="206"] Clémence Royer (1881)[/caption] …

3.18 Elliott and Fry photos, c.1869-1871


< Back to Introduction The leading photographic firm of Elliott and Fry seems to have portrayed Darwin at Down House on several occasions. In November 1869 Darwin told A. B. Meyer, who wanted photographs of both him and Wallace for a German…

Matches: 3 hits

  • … by Edmond Barbier and published in Paris by C. Reinwald in 1881. The frontispiece to Henry Alleyne …
  • … agree to another session at Down with their photographer in 1881.  physical location …
  • … influence on horticulture (DAR 140.1.4) was reprinted in 1881 (DAR 140 1.33) and for an obituary …

3.21 Herbert Rose Barraud, photos


< Back to Introduction The successful portrait photographer Herbert Rose Barraud, who had studios in London and Liverpool, photographed Darwin in the summer of 1881, in a group of four or so close-up head-and-shoulders portraits. This was probably at…

Matches: 3 hits

  • … London and Liverpool, photographed Darwin in the summer of 1881, in a group of four or so close-up …
  • … Barraud for photographs, presumably these ones, on 6 July 1881, establishing their approximate date …
  • … Herbert Rose Barraud  
 date of creation 1881 
 computer-readable date c.1881-01 …

4.42 'Punch' Sambourne cartoon 3


< Back to Introduction Linley Sambourne’s last caricature of Darwin, ‘Man is But a Worm’, was published in Punch’s Almanac for 1882 on 6 December 1881, only four months before Darwin’s death. Like Sambourne’s ‘Punch’s Fancy Portraits. No. 54. Charles…

Matches: 4 hits

  • … published in Punch’s Almanac for 1882 on 6 December 1881, only four months before Darwin’s death …
  • … No. 54. Charles Robert Darwin, LL.D., F.R.S.’ of October 1881, it is an affectionate and whimsical …
  • … date of creation November-December 1881 
 computer-readable date 1881-11-01 to 1881-12-5 …
  • … Punch’s Almanac for 1882 , issued 6 December 1881 (unpaginated). Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: …



Design|Personal Belief|Beauty|The Church Perhaps the most notorious realm of controversy over evolution in Darwin's day was religion. The same can be said of the evolution controversy today; however the nature of the disputes and the manner in…

Matches: 2 hits

  • … Letter 13230 — Darwin, C. R. to Graham, William, 3 July 1881 Darwin praises Graham’s Creed …
  • … — Darwin, C. R. to Fegan, J. W. C., [Dec 1880 – Feb 1881] Darwin writes to J. W. C Fegan, a …



As with many of Darwin’s research topics, his interest in worms spanned nearly his entire working life. Some of his earliest correspondence about earthworms was written and received in the 1830s, shortly after his return from his Beagle voyage, and his…

Matches: 3 hits

  • … Geological Society (Ser. 2) 5:505-509. Darwin, C.R. 1881. The Formation of Vegetable Mould, …
  • … Mary Catherine Stanley (Lady Derby) to Darwin, 16 October 1881 Among pleasantries about the …
  • … Vegetable Mould and Earth-Worms (London: John Murray, 1881), 26. [2] Ibid., 26-27. …

Dipsacus and Drosera: Frank’s favourite carnivores


In Autumn of 1875, Francis Darwin was busy researching aggregation in the tentacles of Drosera rotundifolia (F. Darwin 1876). This phenomenon occurs when coloured particles within either protoplasm or the fluid in the cell vacuole (the cell sap) cluster…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … again, for I am sure that it is worth it.’  As late as 1881, less than a year before his death, …
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