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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Holland   30 January [1862]1

25 Brook Street

Janry. 30

My dear Sir,

I again write a few lines to you,—but on another topic.2

I have been asked at different times heretofore, & again now, to reprint in a volume some of the Articles (chiefly on subjects of science) which I have contributed to the Edn & Qy Reviews.3 I shall probably write no others, as I now have one or more companions in my distant journies to America, Asia, &c, & have therefore no need of that occupation in writing these Articles, which was a great comfort to me in the frequent solitariness of unfrequented places of travel.

I am therefore about to collect some nine or ten of the Articles into a volume;4 & among the first of these will be one on Life & Organization, published almost a year before your work on the Origin of Species.5 In this article some 8 or 10 pages are occupied on this crucial question, & mainly (though I hope without any irrational partiality) in vindication of the old doctrine6

But I wish to add a postscript in relation to your work; & I have just put down a few lines on the enclosed paper, which I send for your perusal, remarks, & emendation. Suggest any change that you desire, or think good;—attending especially to the close of the first paragraph, where I have written what perhaps is not wholly consistent with fact, or with your wish that it should be so understood— But, I wrote it, with full design to submit it to you, before sending it to the printer.

Perhaps you will send me back the paper, with any comments or changes you may suggest?

In haste, but | Ever your’s affectly, | H Holland


The foregoing article was published a year before the appearance of Mr. Darwin’s remarkable work on the ‘Origin of Species’. Whatever be thought of some of the conclusions at which Mr. Darwin has arrived, the value of his work as a contribution to the Natural History sciences, and as a guide to their future successful pursuit, cannot be too highly estimated. Nor is it possible to speak too strongly of the candid spirit manifest throughout this volume; leading its author to anticipate objections and acknowledge all difficulties; and to state, even perhaps beyond his own belief in them, the conclusions to which his doctrine might be liable, if carried to its extreme inferences.

Thinking it well that the argument on the other side should be fully and fairly weighed, I have made only a few very slight alterations in the article now reprinted; one of these referring to the changes in the animal world due to the principle of natural selection, operating amidst the general struggle for existence. This principle, which Mr. Darwin has so largely and effectively used in his researches, may be considered in great degree a new path of inquiry; and one which, steadily pursued by exact and patient observation, cannot fail of conducting to important results. It is certain that at some future time a revision and reform will be required of all existing catalogues of genera and species. How far the needful curtailment may carry us is yet doubtful; but there is reason to presume that it will stop very far short of anything like unity of origin, even with unlimited concession of time for the process and progress of change. An original act of creation, in time and under design, being assumed in every hypothesis, the conception of any primordial unity, capable of evolving and multiplying itself into all the actual forms of life, is infinitely more difficult than that of many distinct primitive forms, brought into simultaneous or successive existence by one designing and creating Power. Numbers, in truth (and this must ever be kept in mind), admit of no line or limitation, when applied to problems which pass so far beyond all human comprehension. Like in this to Time, similarly applied, their only boundary becomes that of Infinity.


The year is established by reference to the publication of Holland 1862 (see n. 4, below).
See the letters from Henry Holland, [3–14 January 1862], 15 January [1862], and [21 January 1862?].
The Wellesley index attributes seven essays in the Edinburgh Review and nine essays in the Quarterly Review to Holland in the period up to January 1862.
Holland 1862. The publication eventually included twelve essays. For CD’s negative judgment of Holland’s scientific writings, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [June 1863] (Correspondence vol. 11).
Holland’s paper, ‘Life and organisation’ ([Holland] 1859), was published in January 1859. Origin was published in November 1859 (Freeman 1977, p. 75).
Holland discussed the ‘nature and permanence of Species’ in [Holland] 1859, pp. 244–52.
CD approved Holland’s original version of the ‘postscript’, though expressing reservations about one section (see letter from Henry Holland, [1 or 8 February 1862]). The original manuscript that Holland sent to CD has not been found; the text published here is that given in Holland 1862, pp. 98–9. There is an unannotated copy of the book in the Darwin Library–Down.


Is preparing a volume of his articles [Essays on scientific and other subjects (1862)], to one of which he would like to add a postscript referring to CD’s Origin [pp. 100–1]. Sends proposed postscript for CD’s approval.

Letter details

Letter no.
Holland, Henry
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
London, Brook St, 25
Source of text
DAR 166.2: 240
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3423,” accessed on 27 February 2017,