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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Croll   6 February [1869]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Feb 6

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged for your long &, to me, extremely interesting letter. It is consolatory to me that you are enclined to give a little more age to the world.2

I read Mr Moseley’s article in “Scientific Opinion” about 3 or 4 weeks ago; I have had the house searched but cannot find the copy. The article was given as extracted from the Proc. Royal Soc., but I have looked in the two last numbers which I have received, & it is not in them. Hence I suppose the author or Secy. sent an abstract beforehand, & I suppose it will appear in the next number of the proceedings.3 The article interested me, though I could not follow all the reasonings, as I hear he is a sound man.

I was reminded of my crude notion that the cause of elevations, volcanic phenomena &c was cosmical, by my son telling me about Capt Clark’s paper in Phil. Trans. (which you probably know) on the globe being a little flattened at the equator, & that this stands in relation to relative position of continents & oceans.4

It wd be a great gain if someone could shew a cause of the many changes of level in the crust of the earth.

With very sincere thanks | believe me | yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from James Croll, 4 February 1869.
Croll had argued that the earth would have formed a solid crust very rapidly, so one could assume ‘a very long period before the Cambrian formation’ (letter from James Croll, 4 February 1869).
CD refers to Henry Moseley and Moseley 1869a . See letter to James Croll, 31 January [1869] and n. 6. A fuller version of the paper appeared in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (Moseley 1869b).
In the conclusion to his paper ‘Volcanic phenomena and the formation of mountain chains’, p. 631 (Collected papers 1: 82), CD had noted that ‘even the attraction of the planetary bodies on a sphere not solid throughout’ had been suggested as one of the forces modifying the earth’s surface. CD also refers to Alexander Ross Clarke and Clarke 1866, and probably to George Howard Darwin.


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

‘Volcanic phenomena and the formation of mountain chains’: On the connexion of certain volcanic phenomena in South America; and on the formation of mountain chains and volcanos, as the effect of the same power by which continents are elevated. By Charles Darwin. [Read 7 March 1838.] Transactions of the Geological Society of London 2d ser. 5 (1840): 601–31. [Shorter publications, pp. 97–124.]


Consoling to CD that JC gives "a little more age to the world".

Cites article by Henry Moseley ["On the mechanical possibility of the descent of glaciers", Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 17 (1869): 202–8].

Mentions article by A. R. Clarke on shape of the globe.

Letter details

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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6603,” accessed on 27 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17