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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. C. Ramsay   27 December 1871

Jermyn St.

27 Dec 1871

My dear Mr Darwin

Though tardy I hope I am not too late1

The pavement lies in a little garden, between a short outside stair & a brick wall. It is 7 feet in length by 3 ft 2 inches in width. Adhering to the walls there is the cement that I suppose originally was used when the stones were laid down. In the centre of the pavement (measuring across the width the stones seem to have sunk as near as may b〈e〉 three inches, and about two at the sides. At the upper end, where it adjoins the house there is no sinking close to the house, but it begins immediately outside that line of junction. A cross section is like this.


Measuring a square yard in the centre of the space, the average 〈s〉inking might perhaps be taken 〈at〉 about 212 inches.2

As far as I can make out 〈the〉 house was built about 1784, and may therefore be assumed to be 87 years old.

My informant on this point is Mr Mylne, whose ancestor built Holyrood, and the family have been architects & engineers ever since.3 He is curious abt the ages of houses.

I cannot say that the pavement was never moved all that time, but the stones seem to be old Portland stones, such as were much used long ago in London. I have only been 12 years in the house. I am confident abt the worms, in so far that I have frequently seen their leavings along the lines where the stones join

I noticed them on Monday last when I made the measurements. I cannot say what is the precise nature of the stuff below. What the worms bring up is black earth.

The native soil there is old Thames flint gravel partly in a clayey matrix. We have a well in it.

I forgot to measure the size of the stones. I will do so tomorrow morning.

Yours very truly | Andw C Ramsay



CD annotations

2.1 The pavement] ‘of a passage’ interl pencil
2.2 is 7 feet] underl red crayon
2.2 3 ft] underl red crayon
2.6 begins] ‘begin’ above pencil
6.2 black earth.] underl red crayon


CD used the information given by Ramsay in Earthworms, pp. 192–3. Ramsay lived at 29 Upper Phillimore Place, Kensington (Post Office London directory 1871).
Ramsay refers to Robert Mylne, who rebuilt the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh in the seventeenth century, and probably to his descendant Robert William Mylne, the last of twelve generations of architects, and himself an architect and engineer (ODNB).


Earthworms: The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1881.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


Sends description and measurements of the 18th century courtyard pavement of his house, the stones of which have sunk as a result of earthworm action [see Earthworms, pp. 192–3].

Letter details

Letter no.
Andrew Crombie Ramsay
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Jermyn St
Source of text
DAR 176: 17
Physical description
4pp † sketch

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8122,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

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