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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. W. Clark   31 August 1871

Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy, | Downing St. Cambridge,

31st. day of August 1871

My dear Sir,

As you have always been so kind in taking interest in the welfare of our Museum, I venture to trouble you with the following request.1 I am very much in want of some Helix pomatia, alive, to be from time to time dissected for Museum purposes.2 I am under the impression that your son Frank has more than once brought up specimens here which he has procured near your own house: and that therefore you might be able, without trouble to yourself, to give directions for some to be found and sent to me. I cannot tell you the trouble I have had about these snails: & have totally failed in my attempts to procure them. It is so very necessary for me to get some, that I am no〈w〉 writing to everybody I can think of who is likely to live near one of their ‘habitats’.

I hope you receive good news from yr. sons in America. I have had one short letter only from Pryor, written a few days after their arrival in N. York.3

I have never personally thanked you for the specimens you so kindly sent us collected by yourself on the ‘Beagle’ voyage. I have opened some of the jars, & found some very interesting things, in good condn.4

Believe me, my dear Sir, | yrs. very truly | J. W. Clark.

Chas: Darwin Esqre.


Clark was superintendent of the Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, University of Cambridge. Many of the specimens collected by CD during the Beagle voyage had been deposited in the museum at various times, including a large collection of invertebrate specimens delivered by Francis Darwin in 1870 (Friday 2009).
Helix pomatia, the edible snail, Roman snail, or escargot is indigenous to Britain (EB). Clark described preparations of three specimens of H. pomatia and one of H. aspersa in a published list of dissections made to illustrate the comparative anatomy of invertebrates and dated 28 October 1871 (J. W. Clark 1871); Helix pomatia and H. aspersa are the two largest species of snail in Britain and therefore particularly suitable subjects for dissection (Richard Preece, personal communication).
George Howard Darwin, Francis Darwin, Francis’s Cambridge friend Marlborough Robert Pryor, and probably Nugent Talbot Everard, visited the United States for ten weeks, sailing for New York on 29 July 1871 (see letter from G. H. Darwin, [14 May 1871], and letter to Asa Gray, 16 July [1871] and n. 2).
See n. 1, above. See also R. D. Keynes ed. 2000.


Clark, John Willis. 1871. List of dissections (to illustrate the comparative anatomy of invertebrates, in the Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, Cambridge). Cambridge: W. Metcalfe and sons.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Friday, Adrian. 2009. University Museum of Zoology Cambridge: the Darwin collections. In A voyage round the world; Charles Darwin and the Beagle collections in the University of Cambridge. Edited by Alison M. Pearn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Thanks CD for Beagle specimens donated to the Museum.

Asks for a live Helix pomatia for dissection.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Willis Clark
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 161: 153
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7919,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19