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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Rivers   26 January 1863

Nurseries, Sawbridgeworth, Herts, | Great Eastern Railway.

Janry. 26/63

My dear Sir/

Pray accept my best thanks for your book which I shall now read with fresh interest1

I remember when I read it on its first being published there were several subjects supporting yr. views on which I was nearly tempted to address you. If on again reading it I go into the same train of thought I shall venture to do so.

I have always thought that our naturalists & botanists have never made sufficient allowance for the changes in animals & plants brought on by site & soil & climate   hence has arisen the enormous number of so-called species. Some thirty years since I used to make an annual journey through nearly all the counties in England & I then used to amuse myself by noticing the effect of site on men   this I did by going into the markets & observing the country people come in, selecting a town near the centre of any particular county. After leaving Essex a county of mixed people I found that Suffolk had a race which I used to distinguish by features which I always carried in my memory. Then came Norfolk & at Norwich Market I saw the Norfolk race very distinct from the Suffolk   Then came Lincolnshire & at Boston the centre of the flat rich land of the county I used to see the large boned large featured men peculiar to the soil & so I used to observe the race-like character of the Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire & Leicestershire   the sallow heavy browed men of the latter county always struck me & then Lancashire & Cumberland & some other counties   my observations always taken in the markets & of the country people—made me such an adept in judging of a cast of features appertaining to particular counties that I have often surprised men who had long lived in London by telling them what county they came from. I then used to reason in my uncultured natural way if the human-race can be so affected by site in this small island how vast the effect must be in climates & sites differing as they do in the world & carried on for thousands of years   All this I well know must be trifles to you but my being able to distinguish people in counties has always appeared to me odd but it led me to look into the changes brought on in plants & trees by site & soil & climate & led me into a correspondence with Morren2 years ago.

so pray pardon me   I am My dear Sir Yrs. very truly Thos. Rivers


CD had arranged for a copy of Origin to be sent to Rivers (see letter to Thomas Rivers, 25 January [1863], and letter to John Murray, 22 January [1863]).
Charles François Antoine Morren.


Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Thanks CD for Origin.

TR has often thought naturalists do not pay enough attention to the effect of site, soil, and climate on animals and plants and "hence has arisen the enormous number of so-called species".

His observations on people of different counties.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Rivers
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
JA 26 63
Source of text
DAR 176: 161
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3946,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11