The importance of having the right Beard

William Beard: The Youthful Darwin Discussing his Theories (Image 3021 AMNH Library)

William Beard: The Youthful Darwin Discussing his Theories (Image 3021 AMNH Library)

No, not the famous beard belonging to Charles himself, but the right member of the Beard family, two generations of whom were artists in or around New York in the nineteenth century.


A short while ago we asked for help in finding an image mentioned in a letter Darwin received in 1872.  We knew that the artist was a Mr Beard and the title was given in the letter as “The Young Darwinian”.    You can read the original post here.   Thanks to readers of this blog we found the right image  just in time to include it in the next volume of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin (vol. 20) which is about to go to press.


From the context, we thought we were looking for a caricature drawn by the comic illustrator, Thomas Francis (Frank) Beard , but it turns out that what Darwin was sent was a copy of an engraving made from an oil painting by Frank Beard’s  uncle, William.


The original painting “The Youthful Darwin Discussing his Theories”, is now in the  Division of Vertebrate Paleontology archives at the American Museum of Natural History.  It depicts a young humanoid with a nicely vestigial tail, showing a pair of sceptical (and slightly amused) older apes a series of organisms from a fish to an amphibian.  It is painted almost entirely in black, white, and shades of grey, with just a little sepia in the foreground, presumably to mimic a photograph.  The image was popularised in June 1871, shortly after the publication of Darwin’s Descent of Man, when a copy of the engraving was exhibited at the Century Club in New York.


William Holbrook Beard (1825-1900) specialised in satirical paintings substituting animals for humans. He was born in the US, then studied in Italy and Germany before settling in NYC in 1861.   His older brother, James Henry Beard, was also a commercial artist, as were James’s three sons, James Carter Beard, Daniel Carter Beard, and Thomas Francis.


We are delighted to have been put right in time, and are grateful to Michael Barton and Glenn Branch for their sleuthing, and to Mai Qaraman of AMNH for help with a copy of the image.  This is the first time we have used the blog to crowd source an editing problem, but we’ll certainly do it again.

Rehabilitating Henrietta, or the importance of Data when Dating

A small lockable leather diary in the archive at Cambridge University Library is leading us to reassess one of the key relationships in Charles Darwin’s life.


Volume 19 of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, published today, is making the short but  intensely revealing personal journal of Darwin’s daughter, Henrietta, public for the first time.  Written over the period March to July 1871, the year of the 28-old Henrietta’s sudden marriage to a man she had known for less than three months, the journal introduces a confident, intelligent, reflective, and passionate young woman. To anyone who has only met her as the overly anxious hypochondriac aunt in Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece, this Henrietta is unrecognisable.


Henrietta Darwin at the time of her marriage

By permission of Cambridge University Press and Henrietta’s family you can also read the text of her diary on our website here.


1871 was also the year in which Henrietta’s father published his most enduringly controversial work The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, a book she helped edit, and, taken together with Darwin’s letters from the period, the journal dramatically overturns previous perceptions of her character and role.  Often dismissed as a conservative or even a negative influence on her father’s work,  driven by a desire for respectability to acts of censorship, Henrietta emerges instead as a free-thinker; she was  sceptical of the contagious emotion of evangelical missions, and unable to reconcile the idea of a personal , benevolent God either with the concept of free will or with the suffering and wastefulness of the natural world.


“I want him to take me in his arms & say I shall never leave him.”

4 July 1871: an insufficiency of data!

In June 1871 Henrietta met Richard Buckley Litchfield, a barrister and lecturer in music at the London Working Men’s College;  they were married in the parish church in her parents’ village of Downe, Kent, on 31 August.  The intimate and deeply reflective journal entries from July, which hint at originally unrequited passion, cover the period of their courtship.  Reading at times like teenage romantic fiction, with all the agonies of uncertainty and longing, it also dissects Henrietta’s reasons for choosing to be married in church–a decision she did not reach lightly–and her sadness at leaving her parents.   She was very much her father’s daughter: waiting for Litchfield to propose Henrietta fretted  “How long, how long has this twelve hours been . . . I go over every chance every possibility, in so far as I can conceive them—but come to no conclusions” then came down to earth with the comment “not unnaturally considering the insufficiency of my data”!


“This view seems to cast what few convictions I have to the winds.”

In a very rare glimpse of the intellectual life of the women in Darwin’s circle, Henrietta reflects on a wide-ranging debate with one of her cousins, Frances Julia Wedgwood – known to the family as Snow – on free will, good and evil, and the possibility of eternal life.  Both women demonstrate a striking sophistication of thought in their differing assessment of the implications for religious thinking of Darwin’s “Development Theory”, but although Henrietta’s arguments are reminiscent of Darwin’s own discussion of religious belief in his correspondence and other writings, the journal reveals a thoughtful woman reasoning her way to a humanistic position that is very much her own.


You can read more about Darwin’s life in 1871 in the introduction to Volume 19 of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, online here.


Capturing Darwin’s Voice: Audio of Selected Darwin Letters Now Available

Terry Molloy in full flow, recreating the voice of Charles Darwin

On a sunny Wednesday in June 2011 in a makeshift recording studio somewhere in Cambridge, we were very pleased to welcome Terry Molloy back to the Darwin Correspondence Project for a special recording session. Terry, known for his portrayal of Davros in Dr Who and as the voice of Mike Tucker in The Archers, previously worked with us playing Charles Darwin in a dramatisation of the correspondence between Darwin and Asa Gray. Re: Design toured Britain and America in 2007–8, shedding light on how Darwin developed and justified his revolutionary theory of natural selection (a film of the performance at the MIT Museum is here).


This time Terry’s task was to bring some carefully selected letters to life with his masterful characterisation of Charles Darwin.  It was a long and full day at the microphone, resulting in Terry’s interpretations of 23 letters.  A significant proportion of the selection comprised Darwin’s letters to women correspondents, who collected specimens and made observations to help him with his research (e.g. to Lydia Becker, 2 August 1863; to Mary Treat, 5 January 1872) and asked him questions about the spiritual implications of his theories (e.g. to M. E. Boole, 14 December 1866). Even the youngest female members of the Darwin family were not exempted from making observations, as exemplified by the letters to his Wedgwood nieces, Lucy ([before 25 September 1866]; 8 June [1867-72?]) and Sophy (8 October [1880]).


The new audio content enhances the website sections on Religion, Human Nature, Gender and Ecology, as well as our resources for schools.  The letters cover a long time span from one  of 31 August 1831 to his father seeking permission to go on the Beagle voyage, to a letter to C. A. Kennard written on 9 January 1882, only shortly before Darwin’s death, about the equality of women and men.  One of the challenges was to recreate Darwin’s voice at the various stages of his life, reflecting the many changes in pace and style from the youthful exuberance of the Beagle letters (e.g. letter to Caroline Darwin, 29 April 1836) to the more considered and tentative tiredness of the later years (e.g. letter to E.M. Dicey, [1877]).


Terry Molloy and producer for the day, Alison Pearn

Working with Terry brought home again the importance of tone in interpreting  particular letters. How should one read Darwin’s politely worded rebuke to St G. J. Mivart (21 April [1871]) for  the inadequacies, as Darwin saw it, of his review of Descent of Man? What was Darwin’s state of mind, as he wrote the highly focussed and detailed barrage of reports and questions that led up to his ‘confessing a murder’ in his famous  letter to J. D. Hooker, in which he admitted that he no longer believed in fixity of species [11 January 1844]? And then there is the affectionate and self-deprecating, yet very precise set of instructions to his daughter Henrietta, who was proof reading a draft chapter of Descent (letter to H. E. Darwin, [8 February 1870]).


We hope that this first batch of recordings will increase enjoyment of the letters and make them more engaging and accessible. We would welcome your feedback on this experimental addition to the website and we hope to add more audio versions of letters in the future.


To hear Terry’s readings: click on the links in this post to go to the letters, and then click on the play button on the audio player to the right of the letter text.

One of our caricatures is missing!

[News:  Thanks to Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education, we now think we may be looking for a version of an 1859 painting by William Holbrook Beard called "The Youthful Darwin Expounding his Theories".  Full update to follow.]


Help!  Can you identify a missing Darwin caricature?  All we know is that it was called “The Young Darwinian” and was drawn by the American comic illustrator Thomas Francis Beard.  A copy was sent to Darwin in 1872 by his friend Asa Gray but Darwin didn’t keep it.


[NB The image on the left is just for illustrative purposes - as some people spotted, it is a poorly disguised version of a caricature  from The Hornet, 1871, which is still with Darwin's papers.]


Volume 20 of the Correspondence, with all the letters from 1872, is about to go to press and we would love to be able to include an image of the caricature, but so far neither of our crack research teams on either side of the Atlantic has been able to find it.   We think it was probably drawn in 1871 or 1872 in response to Darwin’s book Descent of Man.   Beard was a prolific artist who worked for a number of US magazines and newspapers, including  Phunny Phellow, Wild Oats, Budget of Fun, Jolly Joker, Comic Monthly, and Harper’s Weekly.


Here is what was written to Darwin about it:


Letter from Asa Gray,  11 June 1872


Cambridge [Mass]

June 11, 1872

My Dear Darwin

I dare say you have long ago the clever thing referred to in Prof. Rood’s letter; I send the copy by a friend who will post it in Liverpool—so that it should reach you nearly as soon as this letter.

. . .

Ever yours cordially | Asa Gray




341 East 15th. St | New York

June 8th. 1872.

Dear Professor:

I send you by express two copies of The Young Darwinian, (from the artist, Mr Beard) One is intended for Mr Darwin the other for yourself.

The artist assured me that it was executed in a purely neutral

spirit, and without any intention of casting ridicule—on either


We in New York enjoyed it very much

Sincerely | O. N. Rood

Beard is a very talented fellow, and would no doubt be delighted by a

line from you, though he dont expect it. | R




The letters are now in Cambridge University Library, DAR 106: D13–14

Anne Schlabach Burkhardt (1916–2012)

Photograph courtesy of Marsha Richmond

We regret to announce the death of Anne Schlabach Burkhardt on 11 March 2012. Anne Burkhardt has been associated with the Darwin Correspondence Project since its beginning in 1974, and her contribution to its work has helped ensure the regular publication of the volumes of correspondence. She will be greatly missed.


Anne was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and studied first at Ohio Wesleyan University and then at the University of Wisconsin where she was awarded a PhD in philosophy.  She taught philosophy at Bennington College, Vermont for 32 years, from 1948 until 1980, marrying Fred Burkhardt in 1972.  From 1974 when Fred founded the Darwin Correspondence Project, until 2004, she accompanied him on annual summer visits to Cambridge, UK, devoting herself to checking the transcriptions of the letters.  She continued this crucial assistance back at their home in Bennington.  Even before she retired from Bennington College, she began organising groups of volunteers to help proofread the texts.  Indeed, legend has it that it became positively dangerous to attend Bennington cocktail parties, for even the slightest hint of an interest in the Darwin Project would lead to an invitation to a morning of proofreading.  This work, which Anne continued after Fred’s death in 2007, was essential; as Fred always emphasized, good transcriptions could survive poor footnotes, but brilliant footnotes could never make up for errors in the letter texts.  However, Anne’s contribution to the project was not limited to this.  Her humour, astute judgement of the tasks that really mattered, and measured dedication were hugely appreciated by all who had the privilege to know and to work with her.

Talk about Darwin’s Conflict with Samuel Butler

Samuel Butler (1835--1902)

As part of Cambridge Science Festival, the Darwin Correspondence Project’s Alison Pearn will be giving a talk ‘Falling foul of natural selection: Samuel Butler and the Darwins’ on Saturday 17 March at 3.30pm at St John’s College Library, St John’s Street, Cambridge. She will look at the letters exchanged by Charles Darwin and Samuel Butler and chart the disintegration of their relationship, from a shared spirit of intellectual enquiry to a state of personal and public conflict. You can book for the free talk by telephoning 01223 766766, or on the Festival website here.


The event is part of the Butler day at St John’s College, which also includes an exhibition ‘Evolution: The Race to Understanding’, and talks by Ben Irvine at 12pm and Elinor Shaffer at 2pm.



Dine Like Darwin

Beet Salad

What better way to start the new year than an afternoon of Victorian science and domestic life? On January 4 the Harvard office of the Darwin Correspondence Project helped to host an event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, cosponsored by the Program in Science, Technology and Society. MIT holds events during its winter intersession that promote interesting and unusual activities for the university community. Our event ‘Dine Like Darwin’ brought together an afternoon of Victorian cooking, along with reading and discussion of Darwin’s letters to help illuminate Darwin’s daily life and the role his digestive complaints played in his private and public persona.



We recreated some of the very food that Darwin ate, using authentic recipes from his wife

Myrna prepares beef collops

Emma Darwin’s cookbook. Our menu included several courses! We attempted to make the recipes as closely to Emma’s as possible, though we were indebted to the modernization of the recipes in this lovely production of Emma’s recipes. After our discussion, each participant was given a recipe and the rest of the time was spent cooking and sampling the fare as it emerged from the kitchen.  Though everything turned out wonderfully, particular favorites were the cheese straws (flavored with a touch of cayenne pepper), the potato rissoles and the creamed mushrooms. Since Victorian portions are generous, we were all quite full by the end of the session!



During his own lifetime, Darwin notoriously suffered from digestive problems that interfered with his work and social activities. Darwin was preoccupied with his health, and particularly his intestines, over the course of his adult life. He may have exploited his famously poor constitution as an excuse when he wanted to minimize interruptions to his work. If we are to understand Darwin as an influential intellectual, it is worth understanding his intestines and indigestion as well.

Rebecca at the stove

In his letters to family and friends, he was not afraid to be explicit about his symptoms and discomfort. From his youthful days on the HMS Beagle to his death, the state of his health is a constant theme running through his correspondence. It was also a matter of continual concern and interest among his family. Letters not only written to or from Darwin himself, but also those exchanged between his wife and children, are rife with references to his health. This correspondence is fascinating for the glimpse it provides of the bright and engaging personalities of the Darwin children, and of family life in the Victorian era more generally. Take a look at some of the letters the group read:




  • Charles Darwin to Caroline Darwin, 13 October 1834: Darwin’s ill health began on his Beagle voyage. Amidst the excitement of South American cities, cultures, geography, flora and fauna, he complains to his sister Caroline of the effects of sour wine on his physical state.
  • Emma Darwin to T.G. Appleton, 28 June [1862]: Emma writes on her husband’s behalf to his American publisher, T.G. Appleton. Darwin, who is too ill to write himself, wishes to thank Appleton for gifts sent from America.
  • Charles Darwin to Joseph Dalton Hooker, 11 June [1862]: Among bits of family news and botanical information, Darwin remarks with humor on the difficulties of finding a suitable cook.


The participants, who came from various departments at MIT, were all fascinated to learn more about Darwin’s family and digestive life through his letters. They were particularly intrigued by this letter written from Emma to Charles before they were married. In it Emma expressed her concern for Darwin’s health, her sympathy for the frustration he feels when his symptoms impinge on his ability to work, and her express desire that he not be a ‘holiday husband…always making himself agreeable’ for her sake.


Here is the Menu from the day:


Cheese Straws

Scotch Woodcock

Potato Rissoles


Main Course

Beef Collops

Chicken and Macaroni






Compote of Apple



“Dine Like Darwin” was a wonderful opportunity to combine cooking and correspondence in a relaxed setting!

Darwin’s “warm little pond”

After reading about an experiment that showed some moulds could survive boiling, Darwin speculated in a letter to his friend Joseph Hooker that life on earth might have started in a “warm little pond”:


It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are now present, which could ever have been present.— But if (& oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia & phosphoric salts,—light, heat, electricity &c present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter wd be instantly devoured, or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.

Letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 Feb [1871]


A lovely chemical soup!  But not a popular theory among recent scientists who have increasingly looked for the origins of life around hot springs deep in the ocean.  Now new work suggests Darwin may have been on the right track: researchers in Germany have looked, among other things, at the relative levels of salt and potassium in living organisms and think Darwin’s pond is a better fit for our first home than the ocean floor.  You can read about their theories on the New Scientist website.


Composite image copyright Cambridge University Library

We will be publishing Darwin’s letter to Hooker next month in volume 19 of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin, along with all the other letters he wrote and received in 1871 (a vintage Darwin year).   Those letters will all also be made available on this site eventually, but in the meantime we have rushed the complete text of this particular letter online ahead of schedule.  You can read it here.


You can read more about Darwin’s correspondence in 1871 here.



Happy 203rd Birthday, Charles Darwin!

Charles Darwin was born on 12 February 1809. Below are a few excerpts from letters Darwin wrote or was sent on his birthday.

Can you identify Darwin’s ‘cake’ in the picture? Answer at the bottom!


Three letters written by his sister Susan while he was on the Beagle voyage:


I must begin this folio by wishing you joy my dear Charley of being this day 23 years old; and I heartily hope it may find you happy, and that you may continue so for many and many a year to come.

Darwin, S. E. to Darwin, C. R., 12 Feb 1832. See the letter


This is your Birthday; so I must begin my letter to wish you joy, and many happy returns of it (but not abroad) mind that.

Papa who never forgets anniversarys remembered this day of course at Breakfast and sends you his best love & blessing on reaching 25 years. Poor old Nurse Nancy entertained me all the time I was dressing this morg with many lamentations over your absence on this day when you ought to be eating Plum pudding with us, & all the Servants say she has not failed to put them in mind of you; so as I have often told you before, you are not forgotten by the least of us.—

Darwin, S. E. to Darwin, C. R., 12 Feb 1834. See the letter


It is always my fate to write to wish you joy upon your Birthday; but thank goodness this is the last I can do so, into foreign parts.— You are today 27—and I hope all the rest of your life you may spend very happily amongst us.—

Darwin, S. E. to Darwin, C. R., 12 Feb 1836. See the letter


One sent to his cousin, William Darwin Fox, as Darwin was writing Origin of Species:


My abstract is the cause, I believe of the main part of the ills to which my flesh is heir to; but I have only two more chapters & to correct all, & then I shall be a comparatively free man.—

Darwin, C. R. to Fox, W. D., [12 Feb 1859]. See the letter

And here are a few birthday letters we haven’t published yet:

Letter 10841: To Adrian Anthoni von Bemmelen and H. T. Veth, 12 February 1877


I received yesterday the magnificent present of the Album, together with your letter. I hope that you will endeavour to find some means to express to the two hundred en seventeen distinguished observers and lovers of natural science, who have sent me their photographs, my gratitude for their extreme kindness. I feel deeply gratified by this gift, and I do not think that any testimonial more honourable to me could have been imagined. I am well aware that my books could never have been written and would not have made any impression on the public mind, had not an immense account of material been collected by a long series of admirable observers; and it is to them that honour is chiefly due.

I suppose that every worker at science occasionally feels depressed, and doubts whether what he has published has been <wor>th the labour which it has cost him; <but for the remaining years of> my life, wh<enever> <I want cheering,> I will look at the <portraits of my> distinguished co-w<orkers> <in the> field of science, and remem<ber> <their> generous sympathy. When I die the album will be a most precious bequest to my children. I must further express my obligation for the very interesting history contained in your letter of the progress of opinion in the Netherlands with respect to Evolution, the whole of which is quite new to me. I must again thank all my kind friends, from my heart for their ever memorable testimonial, and I remain, | Sir | Your obliged and grateful | Servant | Charles R. Darwin


Provenance: Nature 15 1877: 412 & CUL DAR 202: 31 & C. C. Kohler 1994

Letter 11355: From W. D. Fox, 12 February [1878]

Broadlands, | Sandown, I.W.
Feb 12

My dear old Friend

For surely I may call you so, as you and one other, are all left of our friendships at a time when life was glorious. It is not bad now tho’ I am nearly 73—and few have been happier than I have. I rejoiced to hear from your Son at Southampton that you had all a most happy family party at Christmas— (How I should have liked a peep at you all from behind a curtain). May you have many happy Christmas’s—and therefore many happy returns of your Birthday.

I saw one day, that you were born in 1809— I am glad to hear you are four years younger than myself— I always thought you were only two.

We were so glad to hear of W Es marriage. He is just the man to make a splendid Husband—and seems as happy as possible. You and I have been so happy in our marriages that we can only wonder all do <no>t marry. But it is not always that a man can meet with his double.

We have an anxious house this winter in nursing one of my daughters who I believe slept in a damp bed last summer, and has never been well since. We have feared (& still do) consumption—but all the Drs say there is no really consumptive symtoms, but that there is inflammatory action of the air cells, complicated with Asthma.

A fortnight since, my only comfort in watching her, was that Asthma was the then agent of evil, and so it proved—and ever since she has been improving, but I have more fear than hope of the issu<e> I have, like all the world, (except I hope you and yours) been laid up with Bronchitis, and have not been out of doors this year.

However I am much better, and we are longing for sun and warm air for our dear Invalid.

But why bother you with these troubles— When I sat down I only meant to congratulate you and Mrs Darwin on your Birthday, and wish you all blessings thro the remainder of your life.

Mrs Fox joins most heartily with me in these wishes

Ever Dear old Darwin | Yours affectly | W. D. Fox

Provenance: CUL DAR 164: 202

Letter 11358: To Ernst Haeckel, 12 February [1878]

Down Beckenham Kent
Feb. 12th

My dear Friend

I thank you sincerely for all your most kind words & good wishes on my birth-day. My health has been better of late, & I am able to do every day what I consider a fair amount of work, but what you would consider a mere trifle. Considering my age it will be the more prudent course for me not to attempt to write on large & difficult subjects of a general nature, but to use my remaining strength in studying small special points, & thus to aid, as far as I can, the noble cause of science. To you & others must be left the extending & fortifying the principles of Evolution.— I am now working with the aid of my son Francis chiefly on the growth, movements & development of seedling plants; & we have observed some new & curious facts.—

I rejoice to hear that you are well, & that you are hard at work, about which I did not in the least doubt. As you say time time is what is wanted most.—

With all good wishes to you & yours & with many thanks

Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin

Provenance: Ernst-Haeckel-Haus, Friedrich-Schiller-Universitàt, Jena

Letter 11874: From Zoological Station of Naples, 12 February 1879

The Zoological Stations of Naples and the naturalists diferent nations there assembled presents there warmest congratulations to the veteran of Modern Zoology on the occaison of this seventieth Birthday

Postmark: “FE 12 | 79″
Provenance: CUL DAR 172: 2

Letter 13678: From Max Steffen & six other German students | 12 February 1882

Halle a/Saale
Febr. 12th. 1882.


On the 75^th. return of your birth-day seven German students drink on your health in the old Teutonic manner.

Albrecht von Bockelmann, stud. rer. nat.
Theodor Bombe, stud. phil. et geogr.
Hermann Engelmann, stud. phil.
Arthur Petry, stud. rer. nat. et geogr.
H. Scheer, stud. rer. nat.
B. < > stud. phil.
Max Steffen, stud. phil.

Provenance: CUL DAR 177: 253



Answer: Darwin’s ‘cake’ is adapted from a sketch of a section through the anthers of a lupin (Lupinus polyphyllus), sent to him by William Allport Leighton on 29 May 1865.  Obvious really…!



Sex sells!

A sheet of butterfly wings sent to Darwin from Brazil in 1871 (DAR 242: 58); it will be reproduced as a plate in volume 19 of the Correspondence

I hear that Ladies think it delightful reading, but that it does not do to talk about it, which no doubt promotes the sale.


In 1871 Darwin published Descent, his long-awaited book on human evolution, and all 2500 copies of the first printing sold immediately with a further 5000 printed in the course of the year.  The full title is On the descent of man and selection in relation to sex, which may have had something to do with its success.


We have just sent volume 19 of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin, to press and are all very glad to see it go.  Our biggest volume to date, it is also one of the meatiest, containing more than 800 letters Darwin wrote and received in 1871 – the exceptionally large number reflecting both the intense interest with which Descent was received, and the importance of Darwin’s network of correspondents to the final flurry of activity for his next book, The expression of the emotions in man and animals.   Here are some other highlights:


I believe Mr Mivart to be a thoroughly honourable man: but he was educated as a lawyer . . .

The zoologist St George Jackson Mivart’s critique of the theory of natural selection, On the genesis of species, appeared at almost the same time as Descent. Darwin found his criticisms deeply unfair, and was further distressed by Mivart’s hostile review of Descent in the Quarterly Review: ‘He makes me the most arrogant, odious beast that ever lived.’  Darwin corresponded directly with Mivart but also expressed his growing indignation in letters to others, charting the deterioration of their relationship – a rare case of Darwin taking personal offense.


‘I care for nothing in the world except. laughing. crying grinning pouting &c. &c’

Once Descent was published, Darwin continued his work on Expression, which he had once hoped to include as a chapter in Descent. By this time he was selecting photographs and woodcuts for inclusion in the book (the photographs were produced by the new heliotype process, which for the first time made a photographically illustrated book relatively affordable), as well as discussing fine details of physiology with colleagues in Britain and Europe.


It is great news about Henrietta’s marriage . . .

1871 was also a significant year for Darwin’s family: his eldest daughter, Henrietta, married Richard Buckley Litchfield, whom she met only that year, after a brief engagement. Darwin fretted at the idea of Henrietta’s leaving home – she had been an immense help to him as an editor as well as a daily companion. ‘Several reviewers speak of the lucid vigorous style etc.— Now I know how much I owe to you in this respect, which includes arrangement, not to mention still more important aids in the reasoning’, Darwin wrote to her after the publication of Descent.  Henrietta’s short but intensely personal journal of the months leading up to her marriage is published in this volume for the first time.


Horace, Darwin’s youngest son, passed his first examination at Cambridge University in December, and planned to study mathematics and science. In his letter of congratulations, Darwin became philosophical:


‘I have been speculating last night what makes a man a discoverer of undiscovered things . . .  — Many men who are very clever, —much cleverer than discoverers, —never originate anything. As far as I can conjecture, the art consists in habitually searching for the causes or meaning of everything which occurs.’


We look forward to seeing the book in print, and meanwhile are already well into the letters from 1872; we’ll be writing about some of our favourites here.