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Darwin Correspondence Project

Darwin and the Beagle voyage

In 1831, Darwin joined a voyage that he later referred to ‘as by far the most important event in my life’. To celebrate the 212th anniversary of Darwin's birth, dive in to our 3D model of the Beagle and find out more about life on board and the adventures that he had, and read Darwin's 1878 letters now released online for the first time. 

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Part of letter from Fanny Owen, [late January 1828] (DAR 204: 43)
Part of letter from Fanny Owen, [late January 1828] (DAR 204: 43)
Cambridge University Library

Darwin’s first love

Darwin’s long marriage to Emma Wedgwood is well documented, but was there an earlier romance in his life? How was his departure on the Beagle entangled with his first love? The answers are revealed in a series of flirtatious letters that Darwin was supposed to destroy.

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Darwin and working from home

Ever wondered how Darwin worked? As part of our For the Curious series of simple interactives, ‘Darwin working from home’ lets you explore objects from Darwin’s study and garden at Down House to learn how he worked and what he had to say about it. And not all his work days were successful, here are some letters about Darwin's bad days

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Darwin's works in letters

Another present for Darwin's birthday: five new pages are added to our Works in letters section on the 'big book' before Origin, Origin itself, the subsequent editions of Origin, Orchids, and the Life of Erasmus Darwin. These complement our existing pages on Journal of researches, Living and fossil cirripedia, Descent of man, Expression of emotions, and Insectivorous plants (accompanied by this song with lyrics based on Darwin's letters).

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Bernard Darwin
Bernard Darwin, May 1878. Papers of Nora Barlow, CUL MS Add 8904.4: 1158
By permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library

Darwn's letters from 1878 online

Investigating the movements and 'sleep' of plants, being entertained by the mental faculties of his young grandson Bernard, finally elected a corresponding member of the French Académie des sciences, trying to secure a government grant to support an Irish correspondent's attempts to breed a blight-resistant potato... and a complete stranger proposed to leave him a large bequest in recognition of his work in science. The transcripts and footnotes of over 550 letters written to and from Darwin in 1878 are now online. Read more about Darwin's life in 1878 and see a full list of the letters.

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Photograph of experiment on movement in plants
Photograph of experiment on movement in plants: probably Averrhoa bilimbi.
DAR 209.15: 20
By permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library

1877 letters now online

Flowers, bloom, a son married . . . and a suspended monkey in Cambridge at Darwin's honorary LLD ceremony. The transcripts and footnotes of over 600 letters written to and from Darwin in 1877 are now online. Read more about Darwin's life in 1877 and see a full list of the letters.

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Volume 27 (1879) now published

In 1879, Darwin continued his research on movement in plants and researched, wrote, and published a short biography of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin as an introduction to a translation of an essay by Ernst Krause on Erasmus’s scientific work. Darwin’s son Francis spent a second summer at the Botanical Institute in Würzburg, Germany, learning the latest experimental techniques in plant physiology. As well as their regular tour of visits to family, the Darwins spent most of August on holiday in the Lake District. In October, Darwin’s youngest son, Horace, became officially engaged to Ida Farrer, after some initial resistance from her father, who, although an admirer of Charles Darwin, thought Horace a poor prospect for his daughter. Volume 27 of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin is now available. Read more about Darwin's life in 1879.

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Hunt for new Darwin letters
* Letter to J. D. Hooker, [10-11 November 1844]
Image based on a caricature by George Montbard, Cambridge University Library, DAR 225: 178

Hunt for new letters: last chance!

Think you know of a letter to or from Darwin that we haven’t found? Let us know!

Although we already know of more than 15,000 letters that Darwin exchanged with nearly 2000 correspondents around the world, letters continue to come to light in both public and private collections, and we rely on the goodwill and support of archivists, collectors, scholars, and families around the world to make the corpus as complete as possible. The letters inform and are informed by one another, and our ability to understand the whole is increased with every letter we are able to add.

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Read and search the full texts of more than 12,000 of Charles Darwin’s letters, and find information on 3,000 more. Discover complete transcripts of all known letters Darwin wrote and received up to the year 1878.

Darwin for Schools

Discover our new and improved schools resources for 11-14 year olds.

Visit the schools section