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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. J. Broderip   [31 August 1842]

12 Upper Gower St

Wednesday Night

My dear Broderip

I have delayed answering your note, in hopes of getting your question answered by Bell, but he started on a tour, I find, before my note could have reached him, so when to expect an answer (if ever) I do not see.— I believe D’Orbigny has described my ‘diabolicus’,1 but I do not know under what name.—2 The colours sometimes vary a little, but my description of the colours of most is not at all exaggerated.— I have some faint recollection of thinking that I had done wrong in calling it a toad, & that it is a toad-like frog.—

We are on the point of moving all our goods & chattel to a house I have purchased3 (ie I wait only for a conveyancer’s opinion on one point to sign & seal) a house in the small village of Down near Farnborough in Kent—a quiet most rustic spot on the chalk.4 It is 16 miles from London Bridge & I hope to be in town pretty often.—

There are 18 acres with the house, which is tolerably good & I have got them very cheap.

Believe me dear Broderip, in haste | Yours very truly | C. Darwin

I meant to have called to have given you my temporary farewell—


For CD’s description see Journal of researches, pp. 114–15: ‘ … diabolicus, for it is a fit toad to preach in the ear of Eve’.
Phryniscus nigricans, the original name, is retained by both Orbigny (Orbigny 1835–47, 5: 11) and Bell in Reptiles, p. 49.
Emma Darwin moved into the house in Down on 14 September 1842 and CD followed on the 17th (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix II).
A geological formation covering much of south-eastern England.


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

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Orbigny, Alcide Charles Victor Dessalines d’. 1835–47. Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale (le Brésil, la République orientale de l’Uruguay, la République Argentine, la Patagonie, la République du Chili, la République de Bolivia, la République du Pérou), exécuté pendant les années 1826 … 1833. 6 vols. in 7 and 4 atlases. Paris and Strasbourg: Pitois-Levrault et Cie, P. Bertrand.


Discusses toad [mentioned in Journal of researches, p. 115].

Describes house at Down.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William John Broderip
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 640,” accessed on 6 December 2021,

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