skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   11 August [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

August 11th

My dear Lyell.

I was very glad to get your letter.1 We have returned home about a week.2 Etty stood the journey well & has decidedly improved a little. One of her most dangerous symptoms has disappeared; but the pulse keeps sadly too high. The Doctors, however, all keep sanguine. They say her face does not look like serious organic mischief.— Hope on is our motto; but of course all this anxiety has much interrupted my work.—

I have laughed at Woodward thinking that you were a man who could be influenced in your judgment by the voice of the public;3 & yet after mentally sneering at him, I was obliged to confess to myself that I had had fears, what the effect might be of so many heavy guns fired by great men.—4 As I have (sent by Murray) a spare Quarterly R. I send it by this post; as it may amuse you.—5 The anti-jacobin part amused me.— It is full of errors; & Hooker is thinking of answering it.6 There has been a cancelled page; I shd like to know what gigantic blunder it contained. Hooker says that Owen has played on the Bishop & made him strike whatever note he liked; he has wished to make the article as disagreeable to you as possible. I will send the Athenæum in a day or two.7

There has been a second discussion before the American Academy, in which A. Gray argued capitally, but my copy was imperfect so I could not send it to the Athenæum.8

By the way the other day Owen sent me a copy of one of his Reports,9 so he does not wish to come to quarrel with me.

As you wish to hear what Reviews have appeared, I may mention that Agassiz has fired off shot in last Silliman—not good at all—denies variations & rests on perfection of geological evidence.10 Asa Gray tells me that a very clever friend has been almost converted to our side by this Review of Agassiz’s.11 Rudolph Wagner has published in Germany abstract of Agassiz Essay on classification in relations to “Darwins ansichten”, & concludes that the truth lies between us;12 & this will make Agassiz savage. Talking of Germany Huxley tells me the grand news that the truly great Von Baer is much interested with the Origin & goes a long way with us; & that he has spoken publicly & in letter to Huxley says he will perhaps publish on subject.— 13

Prof. Parsons has published in same Silliman a speculative paper correcting my notions—worth nothing.—14 In Highland Agricult Journal, there is Review by some entomologist—not worth much.—15 This is all that I can remember; I forget whether I said that there was a third article very good & geological & favourable in London Review;16 I cannot think who author can be.—   As Huxley says the platoon-firing must soon cease. Hooker & Huxley & Asa Gray, I see, are determined to stick to the battle, & not give in.—   I am fully convinced that whenever you publish, it will produce great effect on all trimmers, & on many others.—   By way I forgot to mention Daubeny’s pamphlet—very liberal & candid; but scientifically weak.—17

I believe Hooker is going nowhere this summer: he is excessively busy. Mrs. H. is at Worthing, & their Baby has been very delicate & in precarious health. He has written me many most nice letters.— I shall be very curious to hear on your return some news of your Geological doings. Talking of geology, you used to be interested about the “pipes” in the chalk.—18 About 3 years ago a perfectly circular hole suddenly appeared in a flat grass field to everyone’s astonishment & was filled up with many waggon loads of earth; & now 2 or 3 days ago, again it has circularly subsided about two feet more.—   How clearly this shows what is still slowly going on.—

This morning I recommenced work & am at dogs—   when I have written my short discussion on them; I will have it copied & if you like you can then see how the argument stands about their multiple origin. As you seemed to think this important; it might be worth your reading; though I do not feel sure that you will come to same probable conclusion that I have done.—19

By the way, the Bishop makes a very telling case against me by accumulating several instances, where I speak very doubtfully; but this is very unfair, as in such cases, as this of the Dog the evidence is & must be very doubtful.—

Good night with kindest remembrances to Lady Lyell & all your party— | Believe me my dear Lyell | Ever yours most truly | C. Darwin


Lyell’s letter has not been found.
CD returned to Down from Hartfield, Sussex, on 2 August 1860 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Samuel Pickworth Woodward’s remark may have been made in a letter to Lyell, who was travelling on the Continent. Woodward, who reviewed scientific works for the Critic, was known to be a firm believer in the idea of design in nature. Lyell later stated that Woodward was ‘the best arguer I have met with against natural selection and variation. He puts conchological difficulties against it very forcibly.’ (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 364).
CD refers to comments made in the closing pages of Samuel Wilberforce’s review in the Quarterly Review ([Wilberforce] 1860) regarding Lyell’s published opposition to transmutation. See letters to J. D. Hooker, [20? July 1860], and to Charles Lyell, 30 July [1860].
CD read the issue of the Quarterly Review that included [Wilberforce] 1860 while he was visiting Hartfield (see letters to J. D. Hooker, [20? July 1860], to T. H. Huxley, 20 July [1860], and to Asa Gray, 22 July [1860]). John Murray, the publisher of the Quarterly Review and of Origin, had also sent CD a copy (see letter to John Murray, 3 August [1860]).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 August [1860].
CD refers to the 4 August issue of the Athenæum, which carried an extract from Asa Gray’s defence of CD’s views published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The piece had appeared in the Athenæum at CD’s request. See preceding letter and letter to Asa Gray, 22 July [1860].
See letters to J. D. Hooker, [17 July 1860], and to Asa Gray, 22 July [1860].
R. Owen 1859b. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 7 August [1860], and to T. H. Huxley, 8 August [1860].
Agassiz 1860.
Probably Jeffries Wyman. See preceding letter.
Wagner 1860b. See also letter to T. H. Huxley, 8 August [1860] and n. 5.
See letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 August 1860.
Parsons 1860. See preceding letter.
The reference is to an anonymous review of Origin in the Journal of Agriculture and the Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland n.s. 69 (1860): 333–53. There is an annotated copy of the article in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The unsigned review was published in the London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Literature, Art and Society 1 (1860): 11–12, 32–3, 58–9. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 29 July [1860].
Daubeny 1860.
Lyell had been interested in the origin of sandpipes in Chalk deposits since 1839, believing they were formed by the corroding action of water containing carbonic acid (C. Lyell 1839). He described his views in succeeding editions of his Principles of geology and Manual of geology.
CD refers to his chapter on domestic dogs for Variation. Lyell had found it difficult to accept CD’s view that the various breeds of dogs had descended from several distinct species rather than from a single progenitor. See the correspondence between the two in October and November 1859 (Correspondence vol. 7).


Comments on his fear that "so many heavy guns fired by great men" might influence the public and scientists.

Sends CL the Owen-inspired Wilberforce review [Q. Rev. 108 (1860): 225–64].

Mentions defence of Origin by Asa Gray at American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Agassiz and Theophilus Parsons have poor criticisms ["Prof. Agassiz on the origin of species", Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 30 (1860): 142–54].

Lists other negative reviews by Rudolph Wagner ["An essay on classification by Louis Agassiz", Göttingische Gelehrte Anz. (1860) pt 2: 761–800], Charles Daubeny ["Remarks on the final causes of the sexuality of plants, with particular reference to Mr Darwin’s work On the origin of species by natural selection", Rep. BAAS 30 (1860) pt 2: 109–10], and two anonymous ones (one favourable).

Huxley says K. E. von Baer "goes a long way with us".

Comments on "pipes" in chalk as evidence of geological processes still at work.

Is writing on origin of dog breeds [Variation 1: 15–43].

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Lyell, Charles
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (223)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2895,” accessed on 22 January 2017,