RECORD: Anon. 1882. [Review of Earthworms]. Vegetable Mould and Earth Worms. Yale Literary Magazine, vol. 47 (January): 170-171.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe. 6.2021. RN1

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Darwin, C. R. 1881. The formation of vegetable mould, through the action of worms, with observations on their habits. New York: D. Appleton & Co.


[page] 170

Vegetable Mould and Earth Worms. By Charles Darwin, LL.D., F.R.S. Illustrated. New York: D. Appleton & Co. For sale by Judd.

Despite the unattractive subjects treated of in this book, we venture to say that it is as valuable and interesting a work as has appeared for some time. It is a book which few but Mr. Darwin could have produced, and still fewer could be found, we think, possessing the patience in investigation which its production demanded. The author possesses in a remarkable degree the ability to sum up and to classify the effects of a constantly active agent, however slight the separate momentary effects may be, a faculty which rendered so remarkable many of the geological discoveries of Lyell. The ordinary earthworm is at best an unattractive animal, unless a day's fishing is in prospect. But Mr. Darwin gives here page after page of the most curious and astonishing facts concerning their habits, intelligence and powers, all obtained after a minuteness of observation and experiment, as marvellous and delicate as the work of an artist in mosaic.

It would be an endless task to attempt to give quotations sufficient in

[page] 171

number to show all that the book contains. The formation of overlying vegetable mould is the principal theme of discussion, and as an instance of what worms can do in this respect, Mr. Darwin shows that in ten years they will form a layer of mould two inches thick , and that at Wroxeter, an old Roman town in England, forty inches of mould had been deposited over the ruins. Many other statements are no less wonderful. Considerable literary ability is displayed, the whole book reading like a romance, and we do not hesitate to describe it as a valuable addition to scientific literature.


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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

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