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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Arthur Mellersh   1 January 1877

Fernhurst | Haslemere

January 1st. 1877

My dear Darwin,

I have been about to write to you many times to ask if you would like to have a very curious foreign bird’s nest, the name of which, and the country it comes from I have quite forgotten. This morning I received a letter from the friend who has the nest,1 asking me if I had heard whether you would like to have it, as otherwise he wd. send it to some museum: he thinks it bears upon the question of reasoning power in the (so called) lower animals. I saw a day or two since in a paper that the “missing link” had been discovered in some part of New Guinea in the shape of actual human beings who have tails: is there really any truth in the matter?2 You of course would be most likely to have early information if it really is true.

I was very mortified to learn that you had been within two miles of me without my knowing it, for although I have not the honor of Sir John Hawkshaw’s acquaintance I should have taken the liberty of calling to see you.3

Hoping that the New Year finds You and Yours in health and happiness, I am | My dear Darwin, | Yours very truly | A. Mellersh


Mellersh’s friend was George Hodgskin (see letter from George Hodgskin, 6 January 1877).
An article had appeared in The Times, 29 December 1876, p. 4, reporting the discovery of ‘Mr. Darwin’s “missing link” … on the coast of New Guinea’. The article described the inhabitants of Kalili as having hard inflexible tails (Kalili harbour is about 1.25 miles from Danu, New Ireland province, Papua New Guinea).
Hawkshaw’s home was at Hollycombe, near Liphook, Hampshire; it is about four miles from Fernhurst, West Sussex, where Mellersh lived. CD and Emma Darwin visited John and Ann Hawkshaw from 7 to 10 June 1876 (see Correspondence vol. 24, CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


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


Has "the missing link" been found in New Guinea, as he read in the newspaper?

Offers CD the nest of a foreign bird pressed on him by a neighbour.

Letter details

Letter no.
Arthur Mellersh
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 171: 148
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10764,” accessed on 6 December 2021,