RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1930. An early letter from Darwin to Owen. Nature, no. 3163, vol. 125 (14 June), pp. 910-911.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 12.2019. RN1

NOTE: This letter is published in the Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1, p. 526. With thanks to Gordon Chancellor.

[page] 910


My dear Sir,

Decemb 19th (1836)

I have just written and will send it the same time with this, a letter to Sir Ant: Carlisle. I have done exactly as you recommended me. I thought myself compelled to fix on the British Museum in preference to that of Paris because I was carried on board a King's Ship; and the public collection of the country certainly has claims on me. If the collection had been made entirely at my own expense, that is on board a Merchant vessel, then I should not have hesitated in making a different choice.

I quite agree with you that the British Museum ought to make returns when it has the power. I suppose you could not venture to propose another set for Paris. Their value would be so much more in that collection than in the British Museum.

I ought to make up my mind to give my own set to Paris; but I confess I should be grieved to lose my trophies. I should feel like a knight who had lost his armorial bearings. If the Council should not choose to go to the expense necessary for making all the casts; It was suggested to me here, that the

[page] 911

College might pay the price of forming the casts, and the public bodies purchase the models, but I think you will agree with me, that if this can be avoided, it will be better. With respect to great head of the Rodent, I certainly feel inclined to run the risk of taking a cast, because the models will be more generally useful, even in case the head itself should be injured or destroyed.

But I am sure after the kind and effectual manner with which you have entered on this affair I cannot do better than follow your advice. I, at one time, began to think that the fossil bones would be as troublesome to me and as of little service as some other branches of my collection are likely to be. But now I look back to the trouble I took in procuring them with great satisfaction. I do assure you I feel very grateful to you for having given me such good assistance.

I have scarcely begun to unpack my cases; in the course of a week I shall have every thing open, and I already know of one very large bone (of a Mastodon??) which I will forward to the College.

When separating the animals in spirits, I will put by any that I think will interest you. And

it will be a great pleasure to me if I chance to possess anything which will be of use to you in your numberless investigations.

Believe me, my dear Sir,

Your very truly obliged


Christ Coll :


To Richard Owen, Esqr

Royal College of Surgeons,

Lincoln's Inn Fields.


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