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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Dwight Dana   7 January [1863]1

Down Bromley Kent

Jan 7th

My dear Prof. Dana

I was most truly rejoiced to hear by your letter of Dec. 4th. that your health is considerably reestablished & that you are at work on Science again.—2 From one to three hours per day must be a great change to you; but for me during many years three hours has been a most unusually hard days work. I hope to God that your health will steadily, though slowly must be expected, improve.— I have received the printed Corrigenda; but I am sorry to say that your Manual has not arrived.3 I wrote to Geolog. Soc & it has not there arrived, for the Society as I heard this morning.4 I enclose a Photograph at your request; it was made by my eldest son & is the only one which I have.5 One almost too large for Post has been made in London.—6

My health of late has been very indifferent, & I have not seen one man of Science for months; so I really have no news. Man is our great subject at present; & Lyell has been working very hard & I cannot conceive why his Book has not appeared.7 Murray on day of sale disposed of 4000 Copies!!8 The fossil Bird with the long tail & fingers to its wings (I hear from Falconer that Owen has not done the work well) is by far the greatest prodigy of recent times.9 It is a grand case for me; as no group was so isolated as Birds; & it shows how little we know what lived during former times. Oh how I wish a skeleton could be found in your so-called Red Sandstone footstep-beds.—10

I am not at all surprised that you have not read the “Origin”;11 all my friends say it takes much thought (which rather surprises me) & most have had to read it two or three times.— I am at present at work on dry facts & dry Bones, preparing a work to be entitled “Variation under Domestication”.—12 Mr Esquereux has sent me some Books; I do not know his address; will you be so kind as to address & stamp the enclosed letter.—13

With cordial good wishes, believe me, Your’s very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Dana, 4 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10); see n. 2, below.
See letter from J. D. Dana, 4 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10). In 1851, Dana, who was professor of natural history at Yale University, suffered a nervous breakdown from which he never fully recovered (DAB).
In his letter of 4 December 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10), Dana expressed the hope that CD had already received a copy of his Manual of geology (Dana 1863a). However, the book did not arrive until February (see letter to J. D. Dana, 20 February [1863]). There is a copy of Dana 1863a in the Darwin Library–Down House.
The letters have not been found.
William Erasmus Darwin photographed CD in April 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Asa Gray, 11 April [1861] and n. 19); the photograph is reproduced as the frontispiece to Correspondence vol. 9.
CD may refer to the photograph produced by Maull & Polyblank circa 1857; the photograph is reproduced from a later print by Maull and Fox as the frontispiece to Correspondence vol. 8. See also Correspondence vol. 10, letter from E. A. Darwin, [April–May? 1862].
Charles Lyell’s Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a) was published on 9 February 1863 (Athenæum, 7 February 1863, p. 176). CD may also refer to Thomas Henry Huxley’s book, Evidence as to man’s place in nature (T. H. Huxley 1863b), which was also published in February 1863 (Publishers’ Circular 26 (1863): 112).
CD refers to the trade sale held on 4 November 1862 by the publisher John Murray (Athenæum, 8 November 1862, p. 595).
CD refers to the discovery of the fossil bird Archaeopteryx; Hugh Falconer dismissed Richard Owen’s account of the specimen before the Royal Society of London (Owen 1862a) as ‘slip-shod and hasty’ (see letter from Hugh Falconer, 3 January [1863] and nn. 7–14).
The Triassic sandstones of the Connecticut River Valley were renowned for the large bird-like footprints imprinted in the rock (Hitchcock 1836).
See letter from J. D. Dana, 4 December 1862 and n. 2. CD sent Dana a presentation copy of Origin in 1859 (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Dana, 11 November [1859], and Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix III).
In January 1860, CD had begun work on Variation, the first part of a projected three-part work in which he intended to give the facts and authorities on which he had based the theory of natural selection (Correspondence vol. 8). It was published in 1868, with the full title The variation of animals and plants under domestication.
The reference is to Leo Lesquereux, the Swiss-born palaeobotanist and bryologist, who settled in the United States (DSB). The letter to Lesquereux has not been found and the books referred to have not been identified. However, in his letter of 14 December 1864 (Correspondence vol. 12), Lesquereux thanked CD for a letter written ‘about one year ago (7th Jany)’, in which CD had acknowledged ‘the communication of some Geological papers’. There are a number of Lesquereux’s papers in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL; the reference may be to the part of Lesquereux 1859–63 preserved in the collection.


Responds to JDD’s letter [3845].

Discusses his own poor health.

"Man is our great subject at present."

Lyell’s book [Antiquity of man (1863)] sold 4000 copies on day of sale.

"The fossil bird [Archaeopteryx] … is a grand case for me." Wishes a skeleton could be found in the "so-called red sandstone foot-step beds".

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3905,” accessed on 24 June 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11