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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Ogle   [after 5 May 1873]1

Oxford & Cambridge Club. | Pall Mall. S.W.

Dear Mr. Darwin

Many thanks for your kindness in letting me know of Mullers book on Fertilisation.2 I will at once procure it. I fear however that the flowers of Italy and Switzerland will not hereafter come much in my way. I have been nominated Officer of Health in North Hertfordshire, and the duties of this post put an end to all pleasant trips in the mountains.3

There is a passage in Aristotle’s Historia Animalium (viii. 13) which I think may be of interest to your son, in relation to the subject on which he wrote last week in Nature. Aristotle states that tunnies swim round the Black Sea from right to left, that is always keep the land on their right; and he says that some have supposed that this was explained by the right eye having more acute sight.4 Perhaps those familiar with Hare hunting might know whether a hare circles preferentially towards the left or not.5

Believe me | Yrs. very sincerely | William Ogle.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to William Ogle, 5 May [1873].
CD had recommended Hermann Müller’s book on the fertilisation of plants by means of insects (H. Müller 1873; see letter to William Ogle, 5 May [1873]).
In 1876, Ogle made botanical observations while visiting the Italian lakes (see Ogle trans. 1878, p. xi). Ogle served as medical officer for health for east Hertfordshire until 1879 (Szreter 1996, p. 86 n. 39).
George Howard Darwin published a brief note on humans’ tendency to walk in a circle to the left when lost or straying (see G. H. Darwin 1873a). The passage in Aristotle’s History of animals 8.13.598b states that tunny fish swim into the Euxine (now the Black Sea) keeping to the right-hand shore, and out keeping to the left-hand shore; this movement is now attributed to their following anticyclonic currents. The fish that Aristotle referred to was Thunnus thynnus, the common tunny, now known as the Atlantic bluefin tuna. Ogle’s interest in Aristotle culminated in his translation of On the parts of animals in 1882 (see Ogle trans. 1882, p. vi).
Hare hunting or coursing with hounds was a popular sport in Victorian England; there were more than 150 coursing clubs (see Collins et al. 2005, pp. 78–9, 144–5).


Müller, Hermann. 1873. Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten und die gegenseitigen Anpassungen beider. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntniss des ursächlichen Zusammenhanges in der organischen Natur. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Szreter, Simon. 1996. Fertility, class and gender in Britain, 1860–1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Thanks for reference to Hermann Müller’s book on fertilisation [Befruchtung der Blumen (1873)].

Letter details

Letter no.
William Ogle
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Oxford and Cambridge Club
Source of text
DAR 173: 7
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8705,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21