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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   20 July [1860]

at Miss Wedgwoods | Hartfield | Tonbridge Wells

July 20th

My dear Huxley

Many thanks for your pleasant letter. I agree to every word you say about Fraser & the Quarterly.1 I have had some really admirable letters from Hopkins. I do not suppose he has ever troubled his head about Geograph. Distrib. Classification, morphologies &c &c. & it is only those who have that will feel any relief in having some sort of rational explanation of such facts. Is it not grand the way in which the Bishop asserts that all such facts are explained by ideas in God’s mind?!2 The Quarterly is uncommonly clever; & I chuckled much at the way my grandfather & self are quizzed. I could here & there see Owen’s hand.— By the way how comes it that you were not attacked? Does Owen begin to find it more prudent to leave you alone?3 I would give five shillings to know what tremendous blunder the Bishop made; for I see that a page has been cancelled & new page gummed in.—

I am indeed most thoroughly contented with progress of opinion. From all that I hear from several quarters, it seems that Oxford did the subject great good.— It is of enormous importance the showing the world that a few first-rate men are not afraid of expressing their opinion. I see daily more & more plainly that my unaided Book would have done absolutely nothing. Asa Gray is fighting admirably in U. States. He is thorough master of subject,—which cannot be said by any means of such men, as even Hopkins.

I have been thinking over what you allude to about a Natural Hist. Review.4 I suppose you mean really a Review & not Journal for original communications in Nat. History. Of the latter there is now superabundance.—   With respect to a good Review, there can be no doubt of its value & utility: nevertheless, if not too late, I hope you will consider deliberately before you decide.— Remember what a deal of work you have on your shoulders; & though you can do much yet there is limit to even the hardest worker’s power of working.—   I should deeply regret to see you sacrificing much time which could be given to original research.

I fear to one who can review as well as you do, there would be the same temptation to waste time, as there notoriously is for those who can speak well.— A Review is only temporary; your work shd. be perennial. I know well that you may say that unless good men will review there will be no good Reviews. And this is true. Would you not do more good by an occasional Review in some well established Review, than by giving up much time to the editing, or largely aiding if not editing, a Review which from being confined to one subject would not have a very large circulation?— But I must return to the chief idea which strikes me, viz that it would lessen the amount of original & perennial work which you could do.— Reflect how few men there are in England who can do original work in the several lines, in which you are excellently fitted.5 Lyell, I remember, on analogous grounds many years ago resolved he would write no more Reviews.—

I am an old, slow coach & your scheme makes me tremble. God knows in one sense I am about the last man in England, who ought to throw cold water on any review, in which you would be concerned,—as I have so immensely profited by your labours in this line.—6

With respect to Reviewing myself; I never tried:7 any work of that kind stops me doing anything else, as I cannot possibly work at odds & ends of time; I have, moreover, an insane hatred of stopping my regular current of work. I have now materials for a little paper or two; but I know I shall never work them up. So I will not promise to help; though not to help, if I could, would make me feel very ungrateful to you.—   You have no idea during how short a time daily I am able to work. If I had any regular duties like you, & Hooker, I shd do absolutely nothing in Science.

I am heartily glad to hear that you are better; but how such labour as volunteer-soldiering (all honour to you) does not kill you, I cannot understand.8

My poor girl improves a little;9 but terribly little. I fear some organic mischief. We shall go home in about 10 days.—

Farewell my good friend | Yours most sincerely | Ch. Darwin

For God’s sake remember that your field of labour is original research in the highest & most difficult branches of Natural History. Not that I wish to underrate the importance of clever & solid Reviews.—

Bronn at end of Translation, gives a Ch. of Criticism: but the German is so difficult I have not read it yet.—10


Hopkins 1860 and [Wilberforce] 1860.
In his review of Origin in the Quarterly Review, Samuel Wilberforce stated ([Wilberforce] 1860, p. 259): How can we account for all this? By the simplest and yet the most comprehensive answer. By declaring the stupendous fact that all creation is the transcript in matter of ideas eternally existing in the mind of the Most High … CD’s copy of [Wilberforce] 1860 is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Beside this passage he wrote: ‘Mere words’.
In his review of Origin ([R. Owen] 1860a), Richard Owen had attacked Huxley as being a supporter of CD’s theory. See also preceding letter.
The Natural History Review was founded in 1854 to publish the transactions of a number of Irish natural history societies. By 1860, the editors found it hard to continue publishing, having only about a hundred subscribers in Ireland and fewer in England, and they were compelled to make the Review more ‘cosmopolitan’ in a new series (Natural History Review 7 (1860): 65–6). The editors of the first series were William Henry Harvey, Samuel Haughton, Arthur Riky Hogan, and E. Perceval Wright, all members of Dublin University. Wright had recently discussed with Huxley the possibility of transferring the general editorship to him, and Huxley was receptive to the proposal. Huxley wrote to Joseph Dalton Hooker on 17 July 1860 that the ‘tone of the Review will be mildly episcopophagous, and you and Darwin and Lyell will have a fine opportunity if you wish of slaying your adversaries.—’ (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 210).
Huxley mentioned this in a subsequent letter to Hooker: ‘Darwin wrote me a very kind expostulation about it, telling me I ought not to waste myself on other than original work. In reply, however, I assured him that I must waste myself willy-nilly, and that the Review was only a save all.’ (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 210).
Huxley decided to accept the general editorship of the new series of the Natural History Review, which had a board of eleven editors in all. The first volume of the new series was issued in January 1861.
This is not strictly true. CD had reviewed the first volume of Waterhouse 1846–8 in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History 19 (1847): 53–6 (Collected papers 1: 214–17).
Huxley had apparently joined one of the volunteer rifle units being organised as part of a popular movement to defend Britain against possible invasion by France.
Henrietta Emma Darwin.
Bronn trans. 1860, pp. 495–520. See letters to H. G. Bronn, 14 July [1860] and 5 October [1860].


On the Fraser’s Magazine review by Hopkins [see 2860] and the Quarterly Review article by Wilberforce ["Darwin’s Origin of species", 108 (1860): 225–64]. The course of opinion since Oxford BAAS meeting. Asa Gray.

Need for Natural History Review, but fears it will be a burden for THH and lessen his original work. His own problem with work: if he had other duties he would be able to do absolutely nothing in science.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Wedgwood, S. E. (b) Hartfield
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 125)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2873,” accessed on 18 February 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8