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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. N. Moseley   [after 17 November 1876]1

Exeter College | Oxford.

Dear Mr Darwin

I am sorry to say that when I came to examine my collection of Japanese books I found that I had not a duplicate copy of the Natural history book remaining, but that the bundle I had considered to be such was a different book in similar form and number of volumes.2

I send however a few volumes of grotesque pictures of which I have duplicate and triplicate copies and which may perhaps amuse you.3

I enclose also a cutting from the Times’ to which I referred in conversation with you.4

Captain Hutton has fallen into most unfortunate errors concerning Peripatus n zealandiæ.5 He made it out hermaphrodite and self fertilizing with impossibility apparently from structure of a union of two individuals. He is quite wrong   I got the males of the species and dissected them. I think that in the supposed similar case of self fertilization in the parasitic isopoda (Journal of Anat & physiol. vol XI Part 1. Oct. 1876. J F Bullar Trin Coll Cam.) it is just possible that a similar error to Cap Huttons has been made viz the mistaking of spermatophores for testes.6

Please give my kind regards to Mrs Darwin and to your son7 and accept the same | from yours truly | H N Moseley.

Captain Hutton has seen Peripatus spit out its viscid fluid so as to secure and catch insects with it and subsequently to suck the juices for food.8 This looks very like the origin of the spiders instinct in what I believe to be its ancestor. The network of viscid threads ejected by Peripatus looks very like spiders web. Unfortunately the glands used by Peripatus open anteriorly in the body and probably = silk glands of insect larvæ. The instinct of Peripatus seems easily modifiable in the direction of spinning a protective covering.


The date is established on the assumption that CD and Moseley met on 17 or 18 November 1876, as Moseley suggested in his letter of 7 November 1876.
The volumes have not been found in the Darwin Libraries at CUL or Down.
For CD and Moseley’s meeting, see n. 1, above. The cutting was presumably ‘A conclusion without premisses’, a summary in The Times, 9 November 1876, p. 11, of Charles Wyville Thomson’s introductory lecture to the natural history class at the University of Edinburgh. Thomson said that the great stumbling block in the way of accepting the hypothesis of evolution was the fact that the transformation of one species into another was outside our experience. However, he thought there should be no hesitation in accepting generally the hypothesis of evolution, even if the way in which it took place was obscure. See also letter to H. N. Moseley, 22 November [1876]. Thomson had been chief of the civilian scientific staff on the 1872–6 Challenger expedition; Moseley had been a naturalist on the expedition.
Frederick Wollaston Hutton’s article on Peripatus novae-zealandiae (a synonym of Peripatoides novaezealandiae, a velvet worm) was published in Annals and Magazine of Natural History in November 1876 (Hutton 1876).
John Follet Bullar’s article was ‘The generative organs of the parasitic isopoda’ (Bullar 1876).
Probably Francis Darwin, who was working as CD’s secretary.
Hutton 1876, p. 362.


Bullar, John Follet. 1876. The generative organs of the parasitic isopoda. Journal of Anatomy and Physiology 11: 118–23.

Hutton, Frederick Wollaston. 1876. On Peripatus novæ-zealandiæ. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 18: 361–9.


Finds he does not have a duplicate of the Japanese natural history book. Sends other volumes of grotesque pictures.

He can show F. W. Hutton erred in calling Peripatus novae zelandiae self-fertilising; suspects J. F. Bullar has made a similar error on parasitic Isopoda. They both mistook spermatophores for testes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Nottidge Moseley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Exeter College, Oxford
Source of text
DAR 171: 253
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10678,” accessed on 6 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24