RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1889. [Letter to Henry van der Weyde, 1876]. In 'Abstract of the discussion' to R. W. Raymond, Evolution of animal life. Brooklyn Ethical Association: Evolution essays VI. Boston: The New Ideal Publishing Company, p. 157.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 12.2022. RN1

NOTE: Henry van der Weyde (1838-1924), a Dutch-born British painter and photographer whose family emigrated to the USA in 1850. He emigrated to the UK in 1870 and opened a photographic studio at 182 Regent Street, London, in 1877. His father was Dr Peter Henry van der Weyde Sr. (1813-1895, born Pieter Hendrik van der Weijde). This is the only known letter from Darwin to van der Weyde. The letter to van der Wyde is published, from the original letter (and without mention of this publication), in Correpsondence vol. 24 where his name is given as "John van der Weyde".

Lewis George Janes (1844-1901) was an American philosopher, advocate of free religion and President of the Brooklyn Ethical Association (1885-1896).

See Darwin's letters to W. H. Flower 24 September [1876] and 27 September 1876 in Correpsondence vol. 24.

[page] 157


I desire to present to the Association an autograph letter of Charles Darwin, never heretofore published, and of interest as bearing upon the subject of this lecture. It was written to my son, who was traveling in South America, and taking photographs of such noteworthy objects and animal remains as he thought worthy of preservation and subsequent study. Some of these photographs, at my suggestion, he sent to Mr. Darwin, receiving this letter in acknowledgment.


The letter of Mr. Darwin, which was read to the Association by the President, Dr. Janes, is as follows:


September 29, 1876.

Dear Sir: I am much obliged for the photographs which you were so kind as to send me. I have sent them to Professor Flower (one of the most capable judges in England) of the Royal College of Surgeons, where my specimens from the Rio Plata were deposited. He admires the fine specimens of Toxodon, and says that all the others apparently belong to Mylodon. I am extremely glad that you and your friends intend collecting the fossil mammals. I will make two or three suggestions, though perhaps superfluous.

Judging from a distance, the Barrancas de Gregorio seem to me worth investigating; and it would be advisable to ascertain where these cliffs are contemporaneous with the Pampean formation. Secondly, as far as I know, the bones of the smaller mammals have not been collected, and these might be as valuable as those of the gigantic mammals: at M. Hermora, near Bahia Blanca, I found the remains of small species. Thirdly, it would be of paramount importance to find mammalian remains in the tertiary strata, such as those at Sta. Fè Bajada beneath and older than the Pampean formation. Near the mouth of the Uruguay I found such strata with great extinct oysters, and BENEATH these a formation in character quite like the Pampean, and which therefore it is probable would contain mammalian remains.

Heartily wishing you success, I remain, dear sir,

Yours faithfully,


This document has been accessed 197 times

Return to homepage

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

File last updated 16 December, 2022