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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Adolf von Morlot   9 August [1844]

Down near Bromley | Kent

Aug 9th.

Dear Sir

I should have replied to your last obliging letter, had I not lately been much engaged, before this time. I regret exceedingly to say, that I cannot undertake to see your Journal published: my health during the last three years has been exceedingly weak, so that I am able to work only two or three hours in the 24: these are more than fully occupied & I have materials for several years’ work, which is almost more than I dare undertake. Under these circumstances, I hope you will not think me either unkind or unreasonable in declining to add to my employments, & you must be well aware that everything going through the press costs time & trouble. The only channel of publication in England, that I can see, without great expence to yourself, might possibly be the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal; but I cannot here aid you, as I am not acquainted with the Editor.—1

We in England are accustomed to believe, that publication is much less expensive with you, than with us: certainly Engraving is. The cheapness of German Books always astonishes me, & I wish scientific authors in England knew, how to follow so good an example. I may just mention to you, that “M. Baillière Bookseller Regent St” is one of the most spirited of scientific publishers, & it might, perhaps, be worth while to send your M.S. to him. Every publisher, however, in England looks at scientific books with a cold eye.— I hope sincerely that you will meet with success in whatever you determine on, though I cannot aid you.

You will think me a great sceptic, when I tell you that your letter has not convinced me. I daresay there may have been Glaciers on the mountains you describe, but my mind will require a long series of proofs to believe that they have come from Scandinavia.— One always puts too much stress on what one self has seen; but I cannot avoid suspecting that N. Wales offers an example of what has happened in many cases; viz, that the Boulders have been transported & rocks scored by floating ice, & that after & during elevation, glaciers have removed all these appearances, except on the outskirts, & have left in place their own marks.—2 I do not believe the respective shares of work of these two agencies, will be clear, until the action of floating ice has been fuller studied in the north & some distinctive effect, if any exist, pointed out. The piled boulders, one on another, appears to me likely to be a distinctive character.—

Have you ever examined the bottoms of the pot-holes? I think it wd be worth doing, for I found the shape of those, formed by eddies during floods in the Welch brooks, curious: they were formed like the bottom of the inside of a green glass bottle—a form evidently due to the centrifugal action of the revolving sand & pebbles. [DIAGRAM HERE]

Are you aware that Hopkins has lately published a paper in Cambridge Phil. Trans.3 in which he disputes Forbe’s semi-fluid theory,4 & maintains that the movement cannot be compared with that of a viscid fluid:— he attributes all to gravity, with the aid of the lower surface melting.—

With my best wishes for your success & that your zeal may be rewarded by many discoveries; believe me, Yours sincerely | C. Darwin


Robert Jameson.
See CD’s ‘Notes on the effects produced by the ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire’ (1842), Collected papers 1: 163–71. As opposed to CD’s view, Morlot appears to have advanced the theory of erratic boulder transport by a great ice-sheet advancing from Scandinavia.
Hopkins 1849, read 1 May 1843.
James David Forbes believed that glacial ice flowed in the manner of a viscous fluid, whereas William Hopkins thought it simply slid downhill in its bed. Forbes’s position (presented in numerous contributions to the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 1841–5, and summarised in J. D. Forbes 1843) involved him in a priority dispute with Louis Agassiz as well as in controversies with William Hopkins, John Tyndall, and others. See Rowlinson 1971.


‘Ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire’: Notes on the effects produced by the ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire, and on the boulders transported by floating ice. By Charles Darwin. Philosophical Magazine 3d ser. 21 (1842): 180–8. [Shorter publications, pp. 140–7.]

Forbes, James David. 1843. Travels through the Alps of Savoy and other parts of the Pennine chain with observations on the phenomena of glaciers. Edinburgh. [Vols. 3,9]

Rowlinson, J. S. 1971. The theory of glaciers. Notes and records of the Royal Society of London 26: 189–204.


Declines to undertake to have AM’s journal published but recommends possible publishers in England.

Expresses scepticism about AM’s glacier theory. Emphasises role of floating ice instead. Mentions article by William Hopkins on movement of glaciers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Adolphe Morlot (Adolph von Morlot)
Sent from
Source of text
Burgerbibliothek Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 769,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3