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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Kingsley   12 July 1866

Eversley Rectory, Winchfield. July 12/66 My dear Mr. Darwin

I flee to you, as usual in ignorance & wonder.1

Have you investigated the migration of the eye in Flatfish? I have been reading a paper on it by Prof. Thompson in Nat. Hist. Mag. for May 1865.—2

I look to your methods for explaining how the miracle takes place; whether the eye passes through the scull, or round the soft parts, is a minor question.3

Will you kindly do me the honour to look at 2 lectures of mine on Science & Superstition gn at the Royal Institution, & reprinted in Frazer’s Mag. for June & July?4

I think you will find that I am not unmindful of your teaching.

I heard with extreme pleasure that your health is much improved.

Yours ever with deep respect & attachment | C Kingsley


CD and Kingsley began to correspond soon after the publication of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter from Charles Kingsley, 18 November 1859).
Kingsley refers to the article by Charles Wyville Thomson, ‘Notes on Prof. Steenstrup’s views on the obliquity of flounders’, in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History for May 1865 (C. W. Thomson 1865). Thomson gave an abstract, with commentary, of a paper by Japetus Steenstrup on the migration of the eye of flounders.
CD discussed the migration of the eye in Pleuronectidae, or flatfish (now righteye flounders), in Origin 6th ed., pp. 186–8, citing Malm 1867. He argued that, when young and still with their eyes on opposite sides, the fish cannot long retain their vertical position, owing to the excessive depth of their bodies, the small size of their lateral fins, and the absence of a swimbladder; growing tired, they fall to the bottom on one side, and while at rest twist their lower eye upwards. Eventually the fish remain permanently on their side, and the eye on the under side gradually shifts around to the upper side. CD concluded that the repositioning of the eye was a result of the inherited effects of use, possibly strengthened by natural selection. See Vorzimmer 1969–70.
The references are to Kingsley 1866a and 1866b.


Asks for CD’s opinion of the manner of migration of the eye of flatfish.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Kingsley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 34
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5154,” accessed on 16 February 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14