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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. A. B. Spratt   2 January 1877

Celane Lodge | Tunbridge Wells

Jany. 2nd/77

Dear Mr. Darwin

I shall be very pleased if you find anything in my researches in Crete that will prove of interest to you—1 I thought they might at this moment, as Crete is in some degree linked with the Eastern Question—2 So digging some remnant copies out of the dust of my publishers stores I asked our Secretary Mr. White to be kind enough to distribute them to the Fellows, as they come to the Royal Society, whose names I had selected, or to send them by Post if they did not put in an appearance—3 Therefore I told White to say as they were presented, that I neither expected thanks nor acknowledgement under the circumstances—Merely wanting a place for the volumes upon the shelves of those among the acquaintances or friends however slight, who I thought would thus give them room— I think we have once if not twice met in days past—In the days of poor Edward Forbes—4 That, and more especially your connection—distinguished connection with the Old Surveying Branch of the Service, as it was under Beaufort! induced me to desire to offer you a set—as you troubled yourself to write, and already shewn that the illustrations have attracted your attention, it has pleased and gratified5

Yours faithly. | T Spratt


Spratt’s book, Travels and researches in Crete, was published in 1865 (Spratt 1865). Spratt had been captain of HMS Spitfire, in which he began a survey of Crete in 1851.
The ‘Eastern Question’ referred to the problems posed by the Ottoman Empire as its hold over the Balkans weakened; it dated from the late eighteenth century, when the empire was defeated in the Russo-Turkish war of 1768–74. Rebellion against the Ottoman Empire was ongoing in many Balkan regions in the 1860s and 70s and there had been a revolt against the empire in Crete from 1866 to 1868 (for more on European attitudes to the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century, see Kent ed. 1984).
Walter White was assistant secretary at the Royal Society of London. Spratt’s publisher was John van Voorst. Spratt had been a fellow of the Royal Society since 1856 (ODNB).
Edward Forbes was only thirty-nine when he died in 1854, within a few months of having been appointed regius professor of natural history at Edinburgh (ODNB). Forbes had provided CD with specimens for Fossil Cirripedia (1854), for which he was acknowledged in the preface.
Francis Beaufort was hydrographer to the navy from 1829 to 1855, during which time he planned and directed numerous surveys (ODNB). CD’s participation in the HMS Beagle voyage of 1831–6 had been approved by Beaufort (Narrative 2: 18–19). CD’s letter to Spratt has not been found.


Fossil Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the fossil Balanidæ and Verrucidæ of Great Britain. By Charles Darwin. London: Palaeontographical Society. 1854.

Narrative: Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836. [Edited by Robert FitzRoy.] 3 vols. and appendix. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

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.

Spratt, Thomas Abel Brimage. 1865. Travels and researches in Crete. 2 vols. London: John Van Voorst.


TABS is pleased that CD found something of interest in his researches in Crete [Travels and researches in Crete (1869)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Tunbridge Wells
Source of text
DAR 177: 240
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10767,” accessed on 24 September 2021,