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Darwin Correspondence Project


To T. H. Huxley   [before 25 February 1863]1

Lecture IV P. 89   Atavism2

Lecture VI P. 151 line 7 from top   wetting feet: bodies?3

Miss Henrietta Darwin’s criticisms.—4

You here & there use Atavism=Inheritance.—5 Duchesne, who, I believe invented word in his Strawberry Book,6 confined it, as everyone else has since done, to resemblance to grandfather or more remote ancestor, in contradistinction, to resemblance to parents.—

C. Darwin.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the following letter.
The reference is to the published version of Huxley’s 1862 lectures to working men at the Museum of Practical Geology (T. H. Huxley 1863a, p. 89), where he wrote: We notice the same thing occurring in the cases of the domestic animals—dogs, for instance, and their offspring. In all these cases of propagation and perpetuation, there seems to be a tendency in the offspring to take the characters of the parental organisms. To that tendency a special name is given—and as I may very often use it, I will write it up here on this black-board that you may remember it—it is called Atavism; it expresses this tendency to revert to the ancestral type, and comes from the Latin word atavus, ancestor. The passage remained unchanged when the lectures were republished (T. H. Huxley 1893, pp. 397–8).
In T. H. Huxley 1863a, p. 151, it was stated that: Lamarck thought that by a very simple supposition … he could explain the origin of the various animal species: he said, for example, that the short-legged birds which live on fish, had been converted into the long-legged waders by desiring to get the fish without wetting their feet, and so stretching their legs more and more through successive generations. The reference to ‘feet’ was changed to ‘feathers’ when the lectures were republished (T. H. Huxley 1893, p. 468).
Henrietta Emma Darwin. Huxley sent CD copies of his lectures, as they became available, in six separate parts (T. H. Huxley 1863a). CD commented on the first five lectures in his letters to Huxley of 7 December [1862], 18 December [1862], and 28 December [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10). CD’s annotated copies of the six parts of T. H. Huxley 1863a are in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 423–4).
See n. 2, above. CD had been working on atavism in the course of preparing a draft of the chapters on inheritance for Variation (see Variation 2: 28–61, and letter from Henry Holland [10 February 1863]).
Duchesne 1766.


Two criticisms (one by Henrietta Darwin) of THH’s Lectures [to working men].

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Huxley, T. H.
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 181)
Physical description
inc 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3896,” accessed on 25 August 2016,