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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Adolf von Morlot   28 November [1844]

Down near Bromley | Kent

Nov. 28th.

Dear Sir

I received your letter of the 29th of October a week since. It would be presumptuous in me to give you credit for the spirit in which that letter is written; but I may say, that I think, that if you yourself were to see it in ten years hence, you would be pleased with it.— I am obliged for your German letter, which I must slowly spell out, for I am a miserable German scholar, & feel a difficulty in acquiring language, which I presume is unknown to yourself & many of your countrymen.—

Your news about the passage of trachyte is very interesting to me; & I shall be very curious to read, when published, Haidingers views on plutonic Geology:1 seeing that the earth gets hotter with an increasing depth & seeing from how many points, liquefied volcanic rocks have or do come to the surface, I cannot, (not knowing the full reasons) give up yet the old plutonic view.— With respect to the Löess, have you read what Lyell says in his later Editions of the Principles,2 & in his Paper in the Edin: New Phil: Journal, July 1834, & in the Proceedings of the Geolog: Soc: No. 36 & No 43.—3

With respect to the contemporaneousness of the now extinct great animals, with the ice Period, are you aware that in N. America, it can be clearly shown that they lived quite subsequently to the boulder-period. (V. Lyell in some late numbers of the Geolog. Proc:)4 & this is the case with one of the monsters of S. America.5 Dr. Falconer is, also, sure, that when the great quadrupeds of India were alive, the country was much cooler.6

As you attend to volcanic rocks, let me call your attention to the probability of the zoned-glacier-structure of Forbes (to whom I have lately sent some specimens) throwing light on certain streams of lava of the obsidian & trachytic streams: I have given some facts in my small volume on Volcanic Islds. on this subject.—7

Should you at any time come to England, I shall be happy to see you here, at my quiet country house; but if you expect any information from me, you will be disappointed, for I find myself falling far astern in the geological race of knowledge,—to an extent, which when I was strong, I had hoped, would not have happened for some years.—

With respect to passages in my letters, I feel almost certain that they contain nothing new or worth publishing; & they were written without care & with personal allusions to myself, which are not fit for any eye, but a correspondent’s: Pray, therefore, if you do publish any passage, be cautious, for I repeat, I am almost sure, there can be nothing worthy of anyone’s seeing.

Believe me | Yours very truly | C. Darwin


Wilhelm Karl Haidinger, who proposed that saline solutions at high pressures and temperatures percolating through rocks would lead to the chemical transformation of calcite to dolomite (Haidinger 1848). This was verified experimentally by Adolf von Morlot.
C. Lyell 1840a, 1: 286.
C. Lyell 1834. This paper was read to the Geological Society on 7 May 1834, but not printed in full by them, Charles Lyell later communicated supplementary observations to the Society (Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 2 (1833–8): 83–5, 221–3). Lyell described loess as a recent alluvial deposit, laid down gradually.
A reference to Macrauchenia patachonica. CD believed that his specimen was in a later formation than that containing the erratic boulders found in the valley of the Santa Cruz (South America, p. 97).
See Falconer 1846 (read at meetings of the Royal Asiatic Society on 1 and 8 June 1844). Hugh Falconer’s printed statements on the former climate of India are less definite than CD suggests, he actually stated that he considered the present climate of India to be as warm, if not warmer than it had been in the Tertiary period (p. 109). Falconer may have expressed his belief in a former temperate climate in India more strongly in private communications to CD and others. See also CD’s manuscript note, dated ‘Nov /44/’, about the relationship of large mammals and cold climates: ‘Falconer colder in India [’——‘del] Last period colder & yet more great quadrupeds’ (DAR 205.9: 189).
See letter to J. D. Forbes, 11 October [1844], and Volcanic islands, pp. 70–1.


Haidinger, Wilhelm Karl. 1848. Ueber Herrn v. Morlot’s Sendschreiben an Herrn Élie de Beaumont die Bildung des Dolomits betreffend. Sitzungsberichte der Mathematisch- naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 1: 171–3.

Lyell, Charles. 1834a. Observations on the loamy deposit called ‘Loess’ of the basin of the Rhine. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 17: 110–22.

Lyell, Charles. 1842. On the geological position of the Mastodon giganteum and associated fossil remains at Bigbone Lick, Kentucky, and other localities in the United States and Canada. Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 4: 36–9.

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.


Mentions his Plutonic view of earth history.

Cites Lyell’s opinions on loess.

CD doubts contemporaneousness of extinct great animals with ice period.

Cites applicability of Forbes’s theory of glacier structure to structure of volcanic obsidian.

CD is falling astern in the geological race for knowledge.

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. 794,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

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