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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. J. Broderip   19 January [1839]


My dear Broderip

I have been out of town,1 otherwise I should have answered your note immediately. With respect to the shells in spirits, if Owen thinks there is any chance, within a period not very distant of having some leisure, & would bestow a small portion of it on the shells, it would be a great pity not to wait.— But this need not interfere with the commencement of engraving those shells which you might think worth being done, & when this was finished in the course of two or three month, might we not then see how time went with Owen?2

I hope my short paper on Mould will appear before very long in the Transactions.3 Moles undoubtedly, as you suggest, must throw up to the surface, much of the soil, & in the course of time a whole field might be turned over, but the effect produced, I apprehend, would be very different: the fine particles would not be then carefully separated from the coarse, which gives the peculiar character to the layer of mould, which underlies the turf, & still less would the Moles leave the powdered lime untouched, & heap over it a thick layer of fine earth.—

It would, perhaps, have been better if I had noticed the action of these little quadrupeds, & in some countries of ants likewise.—

With many thanks for your kind expressions towards me, believe me, my dear Broderip, | Most truly yours | Chas. Darwin 12 Upper Gower Strt


CD visited Shrewsbury and Maer between 11 and 18 January (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix II).
Broderip had agreed to ‘look over the South American shells’ (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to J. S. Henslow, [1 November 1836]), but the shells in spirits remained undescribed. CD’s lists of specimens are in DAR 29.1 and 29.3. The fossil shells were described by George Brettingham Sowerby and Edward Forbes in Volcanic islands and South America (see Appendixes of both volumes).
Published in 1840 in the Transactions of the Geological Society. This version is reprinted in Collected papers 1: 49–53.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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

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.

Volcanic islands: Geological observations on the volcanic islands, visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle, together with some brief notices on the geology of Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. Being the second 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. 1844.


Hopes Richard Owen will have time to do CD’s shells in spirits.

Doubts WJB’s suggestion that moles may play a part in formation of mould.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William John Broderip
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
Houghton Library, Harvard University (Autograph File, D)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 488,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2