'I hear that Ladies think it delightful reading, but that it does not do to talk about it, which no doubt promotes the sale.' For the first time online you can now read the full texts of nearly 800 letters Darwin wrote and received during 1871, the year in which his controversial first public statement on human evolution was published. The extraordinary number of letters reflects the excitement the book – Descent of man and selection in relation to sex – caused. All 2500 copies of the first printing sold immediately, and 5000 more copies were published during the year.
How do new species arise? This was the ancient question that Charles Darwin tackled soon after returning to England from the Beagle voyage in October 1836. Darwin realised a crucial (and cruel) fact: far more individuals of each species were born than could possibly survive.
'As for Mr Darwin, he is entirely fascinating…' In October 1868 Jane Gray and her husband spent several days as guests of the Darwins, and Jane wrote a charming account of the visit in a sixteen-page letter to her sister. She described Charles and Emma Darwin, their daughter Henrietta, Down House and its grounds, the daily routine of the household, and her own part in one of Darwin’s experiments.
Several letters refer to events at the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Oxford, 26 June – 3 July 1860. Darwin had planned to attend the meeting but in the end was unable to. The most famous incident of the meeting was the verbal encounter between Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, and Thomas Henry Huxley in a discussion of Darwin's theories. This account of the meeting has been drawn from the Athenæum, which provided the most complete contemporary report and which Darwin himself read.
Read and search the full texts of more than 8,500 of Charles Darwin’s letters, and ﬁnd information on 6,500 more. Discover complete transcripts of all known letters Darwin wrote and received up to the year 1871.