To Charles Lyell 21 August 
2. Hesketh Crescent | Torquay
My dear Lyell
I know the page well & like many others I remember somewhere quoting it.—1 You are very honest to append a note; for when I skimmed it first over, I did not see any was necessary for those who believe in the modification of species.— But you show it is perhaps necessary.—2 The most trifling modification (& leaving out “Hence”) of present sentence would make it strictly correct; for the adaptation of species to travel widely over existing continents, will necessarily adapt them for occasional still wider transportation to new lands. I have used in Origin this argument to account for very wide range of F. Water productions.3 Your note strikes me as very good & very true: I have really no criticism, except a trifling one near end in pencil, which I have inserted on account of dominant & important species generally varying most.— You speak of “their views” rather as if you were a 1000 miles from such wretches; but your concluding paragraph shows that you are one of the wretches.—
I am pleased that you approve of Hutton’s Review.4 It seemed to me to take a more philosophical view of the manner of judging the question than any other Review.— The sentence you quote from it seems very true: but I do not agree with the theological conclusion.—5 I think he quotes from Asa Gray, certainly not from me;6 but I have neither A. Gray or Origin with me.— Indeed I have over & over again said in Origin that n. selection does nothing without the variability: I have given whole chapter on laws & used strongest language how ignorant we are on these laws.— But I agree that I have somehow (Hooker says it is owing to my title)7 not made the great & manifest importance of previous variability plain enough.— Breeders constantly speak of Selection as the one great means of improvement; but of course they imply individual differences; & this I shd. have thought would have been obvious to all in Nat. Selection; but it has not been so.—
I have just said that I cannot agree with “which variations are the effects of an unknown law, ordained & guided without doubt by an intelligent cause on a preconceived & definite plan”. Will you honestly tell me (& I should really be much obliged) whether you believe that the shape of my nose (eheu) was “ordained & guided by an intelligent cause”8 By the selection of analogous & less differences, fanciers make almost generic differences in their pigeons, & can you see any good reason why the natural selection of analogous individual differences should not make new species? If you say that God ordained that at some time & place a dozen slight variations should arise, & that one of them alone should be preserved in the struggle for life, & that the other eleven should perish in the first, or few first, generations; then the saying seems to me mere verbiage.— It comes to merely saying that everything that is, is ordained.
Let me add another sentence.— Why should you or I speak of variation as having been ordained & guided more than does an astronomer in discussing the fall of a meteoric stone. He would simply say that it was drawn to our earth by the attraction of gravity, having been displaced in its course by the action of some quite unknown laws.— Would you have him say that its fall at some particular place & time was “ordained & guided without doubt by an intelligent cause on a preconceived & definite plan”? Would you not call this theological pedantry or display? I believe it is not pedantry in the case of species, simply because their formation has hitherto been viewed as beyond law,— in fact this branch of science is still with most people under its theological phase of development.—9 The conclusion which I always come to after thinking of such questions is that they are beyond the human intellect; & the less one thinks on them the better. You may say, then why trouble me? But I shd. very much like to know clearly what you think.
Ever yours | C. Darwin
The sentence at your page 3. marked X by me, reads rather roughly; but it is highly presumptuous in to criticise the style of one who unintentionally always writes Miltonic verses!
(We return Home on Monday 26th
Suggests change in a passage [in MS] of CL’s [Antiquity of man (1863)] dealing with adaptations for travel.
Comments on review of Origin by F. W. Hutton [Geologist (1861): 132–6, 183–8].
Emphasises importance of variability for natural selection.
Discusses possiblity of intelligent causes in variation.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3235,” accessed on 21 January 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3235