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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   [14–28 June 1849]1

The Lodge Malvern


My dear Lyell

We were uncommonly much obliged to Lady Lyell for her most agreeable letter which told us much which we were very glad & curious to hear. Emma has deputed me to write, for she, poor soul, is in her usual wretched state, which to none of our friends requires any further explanation.—2

I have got your Book3 & have read all first & small part of 2d Volume (reading is the hardest work allowed here) & greatly I have been interested by it— It makes me long to be a Yankey.— Emma desires me to say that she quite “gloated” over the truth of your remarks on religious progress; lying sick on the sofa it has been the only Book she has much enjoyed for a long time. I delight to think how you will disgust some of the Bigots & Educational Dons.—4 As yet there has not been much geolog. or Nat. Hist. for which I hope you feel a little ashamed. Your remarks on all social subjects strike me as worthy of the Author of the Principles & yet (I know it is prejudice & pride) if I had written the Principles I would never have written any travels—but I believe I am more jealous about the honour & glory of the Principles than you are yourself.— I am delighted to hear that you are going to set to work at new Editions; I daresay it will cost you much work. I was glad to see your remarks on Extermination, & the striking instance of the tree of Bartram.—5

We return home on 30th inst. I have not been quite so well the last week; but I had a few days before that of almost perfect health: the Dr thinks he can quite cure me, but I must go on with all the processes for several more months & he urges me to keep perfectly idle for some time longer, which is a great bore, though it is wonderful how one gets accustomed to any thing: I have bought a horse & taken to ride.— If I go on very well I shall certainly be at Birmingham;6 but otherwise not, for I am determined to try my best & get decent health again.—

We were grieved to hear of Mrs Lyell’s7 illness & all Lady Lyell’s anxiety—& even you had the audacity to fall sick: it must have been dreadfully vexatious just before your Lecture.—8 I have sent a copy of my Instructions from Admiralty Book9 to Geolog. Soc for you, &, if you look at them, I hope you will approve of prominence I have given to study of active causes.— I have two pamphlets of yours on Instructions at Down, which shall sometime be returned to you.— I shd have much liked to have heard Murchison on Jura-blocks,10 about which he wrote to me; with Prince Albert, it must have been a grand night.—11 When at Rivermede12 pray remember me most kindly to Mr & Mrs Horner & all the party there.

I shall be astonished if your Book has not an immense sale, for almost everyone is interested about America, & all who are, must enjoy your Book

Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin


The first and last Fridays between Lyell’s Royal Institution lecture (see n. 8, below) and CD’s return to Down.
Emma was usually unwell during the early months of pregnancy. Leonard Darwin was born 15 January 1850.
C. Lyell 1849. An annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Lyell praised the churches and congregations of New England for their independence from established religion: they did not ‘suffer the usual penalties of dissent’ (C. Lyell 1849, 1: 212). He also lauded the non-denominational nature of popular education (pp. 229–32).
C. Lyell 1849, 1: 350–2, in which Lyell quoted CD’s Journal of researches 2d ed. on the ‘struggle for existence’. Lyell gave the example of two related species of Franklinia, named by John Bartram, and asked how could a naturalist conjecture which one would exist for the longest time (p. 351). The passage is scored in CD’s copy.
See letter to J. S. Henslow, 6 May 1849, n. 2.
Probably Katharine Murray Lyell, wife of Henry Lyell (Charles Lyell’s brother) and sister of Mary Lyell.
Lyell delivered a lecture at the Royal Institution on 8 June 1849 entitled, ‘On the delta and alluvial plain of the Mississippi, ancient and modern’. It was reported in Athenæum, no. 1130, 23 June 1849, pp. 646–7.
CD’s chapter on geology in Herschel ed. 1849 (Collected papers 1: 227–50).
Murchison 1849. See letter to Roderick Impey Murchison, [before 30 May 1849], on this subject.
Prince Albert was elected a fellow of the Geological Society on 2 May 1849 and was formally admitted on 30 May (Woodward 1907, pp. 167–8).
The residence of Leonard Horner and his family in Hampton Wick, near Kingston-on-Thames in Surrey. Horner moved there from London in 1847 (K. M. Lyell ed. 1890, 1: 119).


Mentions illness of Emma Darwin.

Comments on CL’s Second visit to the United States [1849].

His water treatment by J. M. Gully.

CD’s contribution ["Geology"] to J. W. Herschel’s Manual of scientific enquiry [(1849), Collected papers 1: 227–50].

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Lyell, Charles
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (78)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1242,” accessed on 23 January 2017,