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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   6 April [1880]1

Basset, | Southampton.

April 6

My dear Father,

I think I had better not have the book sent, as I have several geological books in hand that refer to places nearer home, and especially I am just beginning Geikie’s ice age.2 I forgot to say that they have just found some more flint tools on the common at about 7 ft deep, and the men talked as if they had found considerable numbers altogether at depths varying from 4 to 7 ft. How on earth did the flint tools get among this surface gravel without any relics of any kind being also found, as the flints have not been rolled enough to destroy all bones or teeth. The only other things that they ever find are “shepherds crowns”.3

It is splendid about the election, and we are all triumphant here, I hear Gladstone is in all right, but I have not seen papers yet.4 This is the only really exciting election since I have come to years of discretion. S. has had a long letter from Hen. which is rather bitter, but she hopes you had your champagne.5

Goodbye dear Father, I hope you are better now. They are just beginning the verandah, & it will ready for you in the summer. S. sends you & Mother her best love your affect son | W E Darwin


The year is established by the reference to the general election (see n. 4, below).
CD had offered to send a book on the geology of the Henry Mountains, Utah (G. K. Gilbert 1877; see letter to W. E. Darwin, 5 [April 1880] and n. 2). James Geikie was the author of The great ice age (Geikie 1877).
‘Shepherd’s crowns’ was an old name for the fossils of some Cretaceous echinoids, resembling the ribs of a crown, on the downlands of southern England, where they may have first been found by shepherds (see Bassett 1982, pp. 15–16).
The Liberal party had been victorious in the general election (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 5 [April 1880] and n. 3). William Ewart Gladstone became prime minister for the second time (ODNB).
Southampton, where William and Sara Darwin lived, returned two Liberal candidates, while the electoral district in which Henrietta Emma Litchfield lived, Westminster (London), returned two Conservatives (Craig ed. 1989, pp. 21, 280).


Bassett, Michael Gwyn. 1982. ‘Formed stones’, folklore and fossils. Revised edition. Cardiff: National Museum of Wales.

Craig, Frederick Walter Scott, ed. 1989. British parliamentary election results: 1832–1885. 2d edition. Aldershot, Hampshire: Parliamentary Research Services.

Geikie, James. 1877. The great ice age and its relation to the antiquity of man. 2d edition. London: Daldy, Isbister & Co.

Gilbert, Grove Karl. 1877. Report on the geology of the Henry Mountains. Washington: Government Printing Office.


Is beginning Geikie’s Ice age. Describes flints found on the common. Comments on exciting election.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Basset, Southampton
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 81)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12564G,” accessed on 5 July 2022,