skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To I. L. Donnelly   5 June [1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

June 5th

Dear Sir

I thank you for your extremely kind letter.2 The facts which you relate are extremely curious & interesting; but I doubt whether I shall ever have time to enter more closely into the difficult subject of the intellect of animals.3

Nothing in the world would please & interest me more than to see your country, now so great & destined to be so much greater; but my health has been for a long time bad, & I am quite incapable of so great an exertion as crossing the Atlantic.—4

With my thanks, I remain | Dear Sir, Yours faithfully | Charles Darwin.


The date is established by the date of completion of the second edition of Descent (see n.3, below), and by the printed stationery, which is of a sort that CD stopped using in November 1874.
Donnelly’s letter has not been found.
CD had expanded his discussions of the mental capacity of a number of animals in the second edition of Descent; his revisions were completed around the end of March 1874 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). See, for example, Descent 2d ed., p. 70, ‘Intelligence in a baboon’, pp. 72–3, ‘Reasoning power in the lower animals’, and p. 352, ‘Further facts on mental powers of snakes’ (Descent 2d ed., pp. vii–viii).
Donnelly was a resident of Minnesota.


Thanks ID for interesting and curious facts but doubts that he will have time to enter more closely into the subject of the intellect of animals.

Nothing would give CD more "pleasure & interest" than to see ID’s country, "now so great & destined to be so much greater", but he is quite incapable of "so great an exertion as crossing the Atlantic".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ignatius Loyola Donnelly
Sent from
Source of text
Minnesota Historical Society (Ignatius Donnelly papers)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9482,” accessed on 26 June 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22