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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   17 February [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

Feb. 17th

My dear Huxley

Wrights Review on my Origin will be sent from Trubner in a day or two to Williams & Norgate.2 Asa Gray writes, he thinks that “if Huxley accepts it he shd prefix a list of Books on these subjects, viz Books which have philosophised on the origin of species. And Huxley is at liberty to add supplement, strike out ad libitum.”—3

God knows what it will turn out, but Gray seemed much struck with it, from which I infer it will be metaphysical or theological.

A. Gray has republished his Reviews as a pamplet;4 I have directed a copy & advertisement to be sent to Nat. Hist Review. For Asa Gray’s sake (& my own) could you insert notice literally only of two or three length??5 His Reviews have struck others besides myself as very able.—

I heard from Lubbock of your capital Lecture & splendid wipe at Anonymous attacks in Edinburgh.—6 He will grow tired of attacking you.— I sincerely hope poor Mrs Huxley is rising in strength & spirits,7 & I hope you are not killing yourself.—

My daughter is much the same & I have been lately in poor way.

I forget whether I expressed my admiration at the opening passages of your Review on Brain:8 they were grand.

Adios.— | Ever yours | C. Darwin

This requires no sort of answer.—


Dated by the reference to A. Gray 1861a.
Asa Gray had asked CD whether Huxley might be interested in publishing in the Natural History Review a review of Origin by his friend Chauncey Wright. See Correspondence vol. 8, letters to Asa Gray, 11 December [1860] and 14 December [1860], and letter from T. H. Huxley, [before 14 December 1860]. The publishing firm of Nicholas Trübner served as the agent in England for many American works and was distributing Asa Gray’s pamphlet (A. Gray 1861a). Williams and Norgate published the Natural History Review.
The letter from Asa Gray has not been found.
A. Gray 1861a.
Huxley mentioned the pamphlet in his anonymous review of the third volume of Louis Agassiz’s Contributions to the natural history of the United States of America, which included Agassiz’s criticism of Origin. See [T. H. Huxley] 1861c, p. 433.
Huxley delivered a lecture entitled ‘On the nature of the earliest stages of the development of animals’ at a Friday evening meeting of the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 8 February 1861. The abstract of the lecture, published in the Notices of the Proceedings at the Meetings of the Members of the Royal Institution of Great Britain 3 (1858–62): 315–17, gives no indication of any kind of polemical ‘wipe’ that may have been part of the oral presentation. The allusion is to the on-going enmity between Huxley and Richard Owen that intensified following the publication of Owen’s anonymous review of Origin in the Edinburgh Review ([R. Owen] 1860b). Owen had taken the opportunity to criticise Huxley’s February 1860 lecture on CD’s theory at the Royal Institution (see Correspondence vol. 8). See also L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 190–2.
Henrietta Anne Huxley had given birth to Leonard Huxley on 11 December 1860. The Huxleys’ first-born child, Noel, had died in September 1860 (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 151, 216).
Huxley opened his paper with the following passage (T. H. Huxley 1861a, p. 67): As the biological sciences have grown in breadth and in depth, and as successive generations of naturalists have succeeded in penetrating further and further into the arcana of nature, the questions—In what relation does the thinker and investigator stand to the objects of his inquiries? What is the tie which connects man with other animated and sentient beings?—have more and more forcibly pressed for a reply.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Chauncey Wright’s review of Origin: A. Gray asks that THH append a list of philosophical books on subject if he accepts it for Natural History Review.

Sends Gray’s pamphlet of his (republished) reviews [Natural selection not inconsistent with natural theology (1861)] for notice.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 169)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3063,” accessed on 14 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9