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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Thomas Quekett1   7 September [1848]2

Down Farnborough Kent

Sept 7th

Dear Sir

I am going to beg of you a great favour. Some years ago I took all my collection of Mollusca in Spirits to Mr Sowerby3 & to the best of his recollection & mine the more interesting forms were all sent to Prof. Owen,4 including many Cirripedia. I formerly spoke to Prof. Owen on the subject The collection was originally in square green glass (or white round) bottles. The specimens are tied up in coarse [rags] with a little tin [DIAG HERE WITHIN TEXT] number to each, by which they could easily be recognised. If you would endeavour to find any such bottle, it would be a very great kindness to me, for it is most mortifying to me to have lost my own Cirripedia, now that I am at work on them.— I hope to be in London in October5 & will then call at the College & look over all your Cirripedia, which you said you would be so good as to look out for me.

I do not know whether you would care for some specimens, but I could give you the larva in the first stage of Scalpellum, in which with my best power I cannot see any striæ in the muscles of the legs.—6

Pray believe me dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | C. Darwin

In the second larval condition, the striæ are most plain.—


Quekett, assistant conservator of the Royal College of Surgeons and a well-known microscopist, is the most likely recipient of this letter.
The conjectured date is based on the assumption that CD had met Quekett for the first time in the interval between this letter and the letter to James Scott Bowerbank, [January–August 1848]. It is unlikely that the letter is later than 1848, as there is no record of any plans to visit London in October during 1849 or 1850. He did visit London in October 1848, see n. 5, below.
George Brettingham Sowerby had identified recent species of molluscs for CD’s work on South America and Journal of researches 2d ed. These specimens would have been preserved in spirits.
See Correspondence vol. 2, letter to W. J. Broderip, 19 January [1839], for Richard Owen’s intention to look at CD’s shells in spirits. Owen was Hunterian professor at the Royal College of Surgeons.
CD visited his father in Shrewsbury, 10–25 October 1848, and he usually broke his journey in London when travelling between Down and Shrewsbury.
This point was of interest in that an absence of transverse striae in muscles indicated that the appendage could not be moved voluntarily. CD later discovered that embryonic tissues could be destitute of striae ‘and yet perform voluntary movements’, citing Schmidt 1852.


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

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Schmidt, Carl. 1852. Contributions to the comparative physiology of the invertebrate animals, being a physiologicochemical investigation. [Translated from Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie 54 (1845).] Scientific Memoirs, selected from the transactions of foreign academies of science and learned societies 5: 1–43.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.


Asks about collection of mollusc specimens he had lent to Richard Owen.

Asks about seeing cirripede collection of the College.

Comments on larva of Scalpellum.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Thomas Quekett; Royal College of Surgeons
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.62)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1114,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4