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Darwin Correspondence Project


To George Maw   19 July [1861]1

2. Hesketh Crescent | Torquay

July 19th

Dear Sir

I have now read your Article carefully & I must thank you again for the perfectly fair & liberal (or rather kind) spirit you show throughout.2 I shd. much like to discuss some points; but I am not well & have come here for entire rest.— I must, however, just remark on the uncommon skill & fairness with which you have indicated many of strongest points in my favour. You have misunderstood me in only very few & not very important points, which is more than I can say of almost any of my Reviewers. You put capitally & very originally many points,—such as the opposed view on classification & on Homologies.—3 I hope, but do not yet see my way, to lessen the force of your objections on these heads.—4

I do not think so much of some of the difficulties which you rate very highly: I find many of the very best of the younger geologists, viz Ramsay, Geikie, Jukes think that I have not spoken a bit too strongly on imperfection of the geological Record.—5 I think you will find on reflexion & enquiry that you expect much more than can possibly be told under present state of geological knowledge (p. 7583) on period of coming in of Marsupials in Australia.—6 The evidence you require can be adduced to limited extent in N. America, still less in S. America & strongly in Europe.— You put capitally case of mammary glands: oddly I lately determined to advance that case, owing to light thrown on possibility of such a transition by Prof. Wymans researches on Batrachians.—7

In your remarks & criticisms on every form not everywhere varying & producing a chaos of forms, I think you underrate the fact (if any part of my view is correct) that natural selection will only occasionally act when there is a place vacant which can be better filled up by selected & accumulated variations. Unless this process goes on, we should have mere individual variations, or at most such cases as Rubus, Salix &c.8

But I must not, for my sake & your sake go on scribbling: & I daresay I have not made myself intelligible.— Anyhow I can thank you & that was my sole object in beginning this note, so pray believe me Dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin

Your review must have cost you much thought & labour.—

CD note:9

I say in individual because leg lengthens jaw lengthens; & I believe such extends to most or all vertebrata— Mr Maw will say because leg formed by same law jaw will be formed. *perhaps so. I argue only from known correlations & to be discovered!! [interl] But it seems to me, supposing each separately created this is a different consideration, from accounting for legs & jaws in all [‘mammals’ del] vertebrata by correlation— The correlation of growth applies only to individuals. But Mr Maw says there is correlation of colour in distinct genera. Laws of variation & some degree of genetic relation may account for this, as well as adaptation to [‘sam’ del] similar purposes.— [blue crayon]

All these remarks are a mere fallacy—it is mere assumption of Creation as a plan [pencil]


Dated by the reference to Maw 1861a and by CD’s stay in Torquay in July 1861.
See the letter to George Maw, 13 July [1861], in which CD acknowledges having received a presentation copy of Maw’s review of Origin (Maw 1861a). CD’s annotated copy of the review is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. On the back cover, he wrote: ‘(Must be consulted before new Edit. of Origin)’.
Maw pointed out that CD laid great stress on how the facts of classification (in the degrees of resemblance between species of allied genera, families, and classes) and those of morphology (in the unity of type between members of the same class) lent support to his view of true genealogical relations between species. He attempted to show, however, that CD’s principle of ‘correlation of growth’ could be explained just as well by the belief in special creation as it could by genealogy. He cited the similarity in colour exhibited by the flowers of plants in unrelated genera and the correlation of the form of the head to the form of the legs in animals (e.g., animals with long heads generally have long legs) whether related or no (Maw 1861a, pp. 7585–7). In the margin of the concluding page of this discussion, CD wrote, alternately: ‘good’ and ‘no’. In response to Maw’s interpretation of his principle of correlation of growth, CD wrote in pencil: ‘But I introduce correlation only as far as known.— I apply it to parts of same individual & not to distinct individuals—’. At the bottom of the page, CD wrote: ‘It may be truly said that what I [’ha‘ del] admit “correlation” would account for homologies; but I suspect that these correlations are applicable’.
See CD’s note following the letter.
CD refers to the support for his views expressed by Andrew Crombie Ramsay, Archibald Geikie, and Joseph Beete Jukes, all of whom were attached to the Geological Survey of Great Britain. See Correspondence vol. 8, letters from A. C. Ramsay, 21 February 1860, and from J. B. Jukes, 27 February 1860.
Maw argued against CD’s law of the succession of types, stating that if marsupials did not exist in Australia during the period they inhabited Europe, then: we have a strong plea for assuming the subsequent special creation of the modern Australian kangaroo and its allies; and if the far isolated continents of Europe and Australia were contemporaneously peopled with marsupials, it affords a striking exception to the evidence in support of the limitations of special types to special geographical areas. (Maw 1861a, pp. 7583–4). CD marked this passage in his copy and wrote in blue crayon: ‘In Europe several stages | S. America probably distinct stage’.
Maw used the mammary gland as an example of an organ that could not have developed gradually, in stages, stating (Maw 1861a, p. 7596): it is impossible to fancy a process of generation intermediate between the oviparous and viviparous, to account for the gradual adaptation of the young to suit the gradual perfection of the milk-producing organs. At the top of this page, CD wrote: ‘food in young stored up—, as we see in fish— Mem. Wyman on young Batrachian’. The reference is to a paper by Jeffries Wyman (Wyman 1859).
These are plant genera noted for the great number of species and varieties they include. In his review, Maw asked why, after a variety became a new species, variation should cease (Maw 1861a, p. 7597). CD wrote in the margin: ‘Does not cease but not selected.’
The note is tipped into CD’s copy of Maw’s review.


Has read GM’s review and thanks him for its fair and liberal spirit. Discusses briefly several specific difficulties raised by it.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Maw, George
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Horticultural Society
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3214,” accessed on 26 August 2016,