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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   [17 November 1871]1

Bassett, | Southampton.


Not received proofs yet2

My dear Father,

I have sent a copy of your Mem: to Capt Jones at Chester3  Sanford says there is very little old furrowed grass about here, but I think I shall get his sappers to look to it.4

He says that in talking to Sir Geo: Grey some time ago as to whether such land should be called pasture or arable; Sir G. G. mentioned that there was a great deal furrowed & ridged that had been for a very long time untouched near Morpeth if you know anybody there.5 An old fellow told me a funny superstition about it today; he says that in many places the ploughmen give a slight curve to the furrow because if the fairies can look all up the furrow it blights the corn.

Your affect son | WED


The date is established by the relationship between this letter, the letter from W. E. Darwin, 11 November 1871, and the letter from R. O. Jones, 20 November 1871 (Correspondence vol. 19). In 1871, the Friday after 11 November was 17 November.
William was correcting the proofs of Origin 6th ed.; in his letter of 11 November 1871 (Correspondence vol. 19), he said that he had received no proofs for some days.
CD had enclosed a memorandum for Robert Owen Jones with his letter to William of [after 11 November 1876] (Correspondence vol. 19). The memorandum has not been found, but it concerned the effects of castration on the development of horns of sheep (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter from R. O. Jones, 20 November 1876).
George Edward Langham Somerset Sanford was an officer in the Royal Engineers and employed on the Ordnance Survey (ODNB). Sappers are ordinary soldiers in the Royal Engineers (OED). On CD’s interest in furrows, see Correspondence vol. 19, enclosure to letter to Archibald Geikie, 30 December 1871, and Earthworms, pp. 292–7.
George Grey was MP for Morpeth from 1853 to 1874.


Says has sent a copy of CD’s memorial to Captain Jones. Passes on Sir Geo. Grey’s comments on pasturage near Morpeth. Tells superstition about straight furrows and fairies.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Bassett, Southampton
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 38)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8073F,” accessed on 27 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)