skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Albert Way   7 April [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

April 7th

My dear Way

Will you forgive me for troubling you with a question, which I presume it is extremely unlikely that you can answer; but I imagine you would be more likely to answer it than anyone.—1 I am anxious to ascertain what little I can of the history of some of our most strongly marked breeds of domestic animals; & it has occurred to me as possible that archæologists may know when our gigantic dray or waggon Horses were first recorded or noticed. There might be old drawings of heavy carts with horses not so heavy as our present ones or some such evidence, that heavy cart-horses did not exist at a given date.— I have read that the old knights in armour rode very powerful horses, but I presume they were not waggon-horses.

Do you know anyone, whom you meet at the archæological Societies, who could throw any light on this point, if it has never occurred to you?2 Would it be of any use to put a question in Notes & Queries?—though that is a periodical I have no means of seeing.—3 If you cannot aid me, do not trouble yourself by answering this; as I write it on the bare chance of your being able to give me some information.

It is a very long time since we met.— Eheu Eheu, the old Crux Major days are long past.4 I sincerely hope that you are well in health.

Believe me Dear Way | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


Way was an antiquary and the founder of the Archaeological Institute. He had been a close friend of CD’s when they were both undergraduates at Cambridge University. See Correspondence vol. 1.
Way was apparently unable to answer CD’s query. The chapter on the horse in Variation has no information on the first appearance of the dray horse in England.
The first issue of Notes and Queries, 3 November 1849, included the statement that ‘some cheap and frequent means for the interchange of thought is certainly wanted by those who are engaged in literature, art, and science, and we only hope to persuade the best men in all, that we offer them the best medium of communication with each other.’
Way and CD’s cousin William Darwin Fox had introduced him to insect collecting at Cambridge (see Correspondence vol. 1). CD often mentioned the beetle Panageus crux-major when he recalled his undergraduate entomological expeditions. See also Autobiography, pp. 62–4.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

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

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Asks AW about archaeological evidence concerning the first appearance of dray horses.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Albert Way
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.205)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2748,” accessed on 21 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8