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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Jean Louis Armand de Quatrefages de Bréau   25 April [1861]1

Down. | Bromley. Kent.

April 25.

My dear Sir.

I received this morning your “Unité de l’Esp‘ece Humaine”, & most sincerely do I thank you for this, your very kind present.2 I had heard of and been recommended to read your articles, but not knowing that they were separately published did not know how to get them.— So your present is most acceptable, & I am very anxious to see your views on the whole subject of Species & variation; & I am certain to derive much benefit from your work. In cutting the pages I observe that you have most kindly mentioned my work several times.3

My views spread slowly in England & America; and I am much surprised to find them most commonly accepted by Geologists, next by Botanists and least by Zoologists.—4 I am much pleased that the younger and middle-aged Geologists are coming round; for the arguments from Geology have always seemed strongest against me. Not one of the older geologists (except Lyell) has been even shaken in his views of the eternal immutability of species— But so many of the younger men are turning round with Zeal that I look to the future with some confidence.—5

I am now at work on “Variation under domestication” but make slow progress.—6 it is such tedious work comparing skeletons—

With very sincere thanks for the kind sympathy which you have always shown me and with much respect | I remain, My dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged— | Charles Darwin.

I have lately read M. Naudin’s paper; but it does not seem to me to anticipate me, as he does not shew how Selection could be applied under nature;7 but an obscure writer on Forest Trees, in 1830, in Scotland, most expressly & clearly anticipated my views—though he put the case so briefly, that no single person ever noticed the scattered passages in his book—8


Dated by the reference to Quatrefages de Bréau 1861 (see n. 2, below).
An annotated copy of Quatrefages de Bréau 1861 is in the Darwin Library–CUL. See also Marginalia 1: 693–5. In his book, Quatrefages classified the human species as a separate kingdom (r‘egne humain).
In Quatrefages de Bréau 1861, pp. 37–9, the author discussed the views of CD and others on the question of species change. For Quatrefage’s views of Origin, see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. L. A. de Quatrefages de Bréau, 5 December [1859].
CD was pleased by the number of supporters he counted among geologists, including Charles Lyell, Andrew Crombie Ramsay, Joseph Beete Jukes, and Henry Darwin Rogers. See Correspondence vol. 8, letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 March [1860].
CD believed that the general acceptance of his views depended on their being taken up by the younger generation of scientists (see Correspondence vol. 8, letters to T. H. Huxley, 2 December [1860] and 5 [December 1860]). He expressed his pleasure in the support of such men on several occasions (see letters to Joseph Leidy, 4 March [1861], and to J. F. W. Herschel, 23 May [1861]).
CD was writing the early chapters discussing variation in different domestic animals that were eventually published in the first volume of Variation (see ‘Journal’; Appendix II).
For CD’s earlier response to the suggestion that the French botanist Charles Victor Naudin had possibly anticipated some of his views in Naudin 1852, see Correspondence vol. 7, letters to J. D. Hooker, 21 [December 1859] and 23 [December 1859], and to Charles Lyell, 22 [December 1859]. CD included Naudin’s name among those who had previously published on the modification of species in the historical sketch included in the preface to the revised and augmented American edition of Origin and in the German and third English editions. In his abstract of Quatrefages de Bréau 1861, CD noted the implicit reference to Naudin’s so-called ‘loi de retour’ (law of return) as it applied to hybrid crosses (Quatrefages de Bréau 1861, p. 161).
CD refers to Patrick Matthew. See Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [13 April 1860], and Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix V.


Comments on QdeB’s Unité de l’espèce humaine [1861].

Discusses acceptance of his theory among scientists, especially geologists.

C. V. Naudin did not show how selection applied in nature, but Patrick Matthew clearly anticipated CD’s views.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Quatrefages de Bréau, J. L. A. de
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3127,” accessed on 25 March 2017,