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Letter 8199

Darwin, C. R. to Dohrn, F. A.

3 Feb 1872


Thanks AD for his article in Das Ausland ["Englische Kritiker und Anti-Kritiker über den Darwinismus", 49 (1871): 1153–7].

Mivart’s book [Genesis of species], which misinterprets CD’s views, has produced a great effect in England.

He has answered the point about incipient structures being useless in new [6th] edition of Origin.

His Descent has had immense circulation, but has met with approval of hardly any naturalists. He supposes it was a mistake to publish it, but it will pave way for a better work.


Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Feb 3 1872

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for having sent me your interestingarticle in Das Ausland   I infer that there will be a second article; &if you have a spare copy I should be grateful for it.f1 I am particularlyglad that you were struck with Huxley’s article, which seems to meinimitably good.f2 You will have heard that his health has failed &that he has gone to Egypt for 3 months. I believe he intends on hisreturn to visit your establishment at Naples, which I hope flourishes.f3

I believe you are quite right about the cause of Wallace’s sadfalling away.f4 Mr Mivart’s book has produced a great effect inEngland.f5 He much misrepresents my views. The point which seems to havestruck most readers in England is about incipient structures not beingof use. I have therefore answered this point in some detail in anew edition of the Origin which will soon appear, & of which I willsend you a copy for the chance of your liking to read this part.f6

I did not know until reading your article that my Descent of Manhad excited so much furor in Germany.f7 It has had an immense circulationin this countryf8 & in America; but has met the approval of hardlyany naturalists as far as I know. Therefore I suppose it was amistake on my part to publish it; but any how it will pave the way forsome better work—

Believe me | my dear Sir | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Ana 525. Ba 699)



Dohrn’s article ‘Englische Kritiker und Anti-Kritiker überDarwinismus’ was published in the 4 December 1871 issue of DasAusland (Dohrn 1871e). CD’s copy of the issue is in the DarwinPamphlet Collection–CUL. At the end of the article Dohrn remarkedthat a similar review of German criticism would be useful, but noother article has been identified.
In Dohrn 1871e, pp. 1154–7, Dohrn gave a synopsis of Thomas HenryHuxley’s essay ‘Mr. Darwin’s critics’ (T. H. Huxley 1871a).
Huxley stayed at Dohrn’s house in Naples while Dohrn was in Stettin(now Szczecin in Poland; letterfrom Anton Dohrn to Henrietta Anne Huxley, 7 March 1872 (ImperialCollege of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives, Huxley Papers 13: 210); Heuss 1991, pp. 118–19).
Dohrn argued that Alfred Russel Wallace, because of his oppositionto mechanistic philosophy, had tried, unsuccessfully, to combinenatural selection and spiritualism (Dohrn 1871e, p. 1154).
St George Jackson Mivart had written critically about CD’s theoryin On the genesis of species (Mivart 1871a).
In Origin 6th ed., pp. 176–204, CD responded to Mivart’scriticisms regarding the incompetence of natural selection to accountfor the incipient stages of useful structures. Dohrn’s name is on CD’spresentation list for Origin 6th ed. (see Appendix IV).
Descent was published in 1871 and translated into German byJulius Victor Carus (Carus trans. 1871).
Seven thousand five hundred copies of Descent were printed byJohn Murray in 1871 (Freeman 1977).
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