RECORD: Anon. 1882. [Review of Earthworms]. Sheffield Independent (28 January): 12.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe. 7.2021. RN1

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[page] 12

The worm under our feet is almost always despised, and often treated as an enemy, and the early birds that are supposed to breakfast upon it are welcomed as if, by devouring it, they did some great good to the farmer and the gardener. Many persons will no doubt be surprised to learn that the insignificant worms is one of our best friends.

Mr. Darwin, in his lately published book entitled "The Action of Worms in the Formation of Vegetable Mould, gives the results of patient and elaborate researches on the structure and habits of the earth worm. He finds that the little earth mounds which occur so frequently in pastures and gardens, and often in places where they are not welcomed, consist of earth and partly digested leaves which have been swallowed by the creature, and after yielding up their nourishment have been ejected. The worm ordinarily lives in holes one or two feet deep, and is comparatively inactive during the day, but at night provides its food, consisting of decaying leaves and other matter which if left would injure the air. This food is conveyed into the hole and eaten there, along with a quantity of earth. While this process is going on, the mouth of the hole is carefully closed, yet so as not to be air-tight, with bits of stick or any other suitable materials, in order to provide a defence against beetles, and other enemies. An earthworm has neither brain nor eyes, but its work evinces considerable intelligence. Mr. Darwin has ascertained that in many parts of the country from 16 to 18 tons of earth are spread over each acre of ground by means of worms, and that cinders placed on land are found in a few years to be an inch or two below the surface. He attributes the burying of ancient ruins in many cases to the action of these same creatures. Mr. Darwin has earned deserved renown over the whole world by his biological speculations which are almost universally received by competent naturalists, and he has now shown himself willing to devote attention to the study of the habits and work of very humble creatures, just as Sir John Lubbock employs his leisure in the observations of ants and bees.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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