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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. V. Carus   15 November 1866

39, Elsterstrasse, | Leipzig

Novbr, 15. 1866.

My dear Sir,

First of all let me thank you for your photograph, by which you made me happy. I longed for it and yet I did not venture to ask you directly. As you were so kind to express your wish with regard to mine, I enclose it being proud of the quite undeserved honour conferred upon my figure.1

As for the translation I try to make it a really true one; to make it good, that is rather impossible without rewriting it.2 Yet I do my best to make it at any rate more German and readable. Some mistakes of Bronn’s are quite ridiculous3   For instance he translates “turnspit dog” by “that sort of dogs used in England to turn the spits”. You mean the Canis fam. vertagus, where already Linnaeus gives the quotation: “Turnspit, Pennant, Brit. Zool.”4 It is our “Dachshund”, which word Bronn uses as the translation of “terrier”, which is on the contrary our Pinscher, viz. Canis fam. gryphus.5 These places of course you did not mark. I am obliged to read and compare the whole verbatim. Till now I did the first three chapters. There is one thing in these I must ask you. You mention the sweet pea. Bronn translates “Sugar-pea”, which is false.6 I am almost sure of the plant you mean, but cannot get hold of our German name without knowing first the botanical. On p. 23 of the fourth edition (which I have got) you mention the laugher. There Bronn doubts if you had meant Columba risoria.7 I think there is no occasion for doubting. I should therefore leave off his note, as I do with the others where he did not give an addition of yours8   For myself I shall not append notes, as I do not think it proper to bring my individuality forward in such a way. All I should do would be to give a short appendix especially on the mechanical or physiological relations of every germ, whether egg or bud or the product of partition, on which variability depends, and, if you allow it, on spontaneous generation with special regard to Haeckel’s new book.9 As to Nägeli’s pamphlet I should feel very much obliged if you should write a note on it and tell me the place where I ought to put it.10 He gives some very striking instances of selection in certain alpine plants and so on; but he is not quite consistent, what I felt just in the opinion of his, which you mentioned.11

Before I beg leave, may I ask you another great kindness? The publisher of one of our Cyclopaedias, who knows that I am acquainted with a pretty number of English naturalists thought me the right man to write biographical articles on your dear life and on that of Th Huxley.12 I shall never forget that meeting of the combined sections of the British Association when at Oxford 1860, where Admiral Fitzroy expressed his sorrows for having given you the opportunities of collecting facts for such a shocking theory as yours. The poor man is gone, and yet we thank him.13 As I welcome the opportunity of giving to the public in a widely spread work for reference an abstract of your results I should be very much pleased if I could rely for the little biographical sketch on the best authority possible, on yourself   Now, if it gives not too much trouble to you, would you be so very kind as to give me some details on your life? Birthday, school, and so on. If you should not like it I trust you will tell me quite openly and will not be angry with me. In the meantime I shall go on with your work, and whenever I find some doubts, will you excuse my writing again and trespassing on your time?

Once more my most hearty thanks for the kind gift. Believe me, | My dear Sir, | Yours very sincerely. | J. Victor Carus

CD annotations

1.1 First of all … happy.] scored pencil
2.10 You mention … the botanical. 2.12] scored blue crayon
2.13 There Bronn … for doubting. 2.15] scored blue crayon
2.21 As to Nägeli’s … put it. 2.23] scored blue crayon
3.11 would you be so very … and so on. 3.13] scored blue crayon
3.15 will you excuse … your time? 3.16] scored blue crayon


CD had sent a photograph of himself and requested one of Carus (see letter to J. V. Carus, 10 November 1866). The photograph of Carus has not been found.
Carus was producing a new German edition of Origin based on the fourth English edition (Bronn and Carus trans. 1867). He did not simply translate the revisions CD had made, but revised the whole translation.
Heinrich Georg Bronn had prepared the first and second German editions of Origin (Bronn trans. 1860 and 1863).
See Bronn trans. 1863, p. 41. Canis familiaris var. vertagus is described in Linnaeus 1858–9, 1: 50.
Carus replaced Bronn’s phrase with the word ‘Dachshund’ (see Bronn and Carus trans. 1867, p. 45). On the translation of ‘terrier’, see Bronn trans. 1863, p. 27, and Bronn and Carus trans. 1867, p. 31.
See Origin 3d ed., p. 76, and Bronn trans. 1863, p. 88, where Bronn uses ‘Zuckererbsen’ (sugar pea; Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) rather than ‘wohlriechenden Platterbse’ (sweetpea; Lathyrus odoratus). Carus used only the botanical name, Lathyrus odoratus, in his translation (see Bronn and Carus trans. 1867, p. 98).
Carus refers to the fourth edition of Origin, which was published in November 1866. CD had earlier sent page proofs to his German publisher (see letter from E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 26 October 1866 and n. 2). In Bronn trans. 1863, p. 32 n., Bronn writes, ‘the laugher, die Lachtaube’ (literally ‘laughing dove’), but adds that from the context, the breed of pigeon CD meant was probably ‘die Trommeltaube’ (literally ‘drumming dove’). ‘Lachtaube’ is the German common name for Columba risoria (now Streptopelia roseogrisea), the African collared dove.
In his translation, Carus called the bird ‘die Lachtaube’, but appended a note stating that he learned, from correspondence with the author, that the ‘laugher’ was not Columba risoria, but another eastern variety of C. livia apparently unknown in Germany (see Bronn and Carus trans. 1867, pp. 36–7).
Carus refers to Ernst Haeckel and his Generelle Morphologie der Organismen (Haeckel 1866), in which he had speculated on the possibility of spontaneous generation (see Haeckel 1866, 2: 174; for more on Haeckel’s theories of the development of living organisms from inorganic matter, see Rehbock 1975 and Rupke 1976). There is no appendix to Bronn and Carus trans. 1867.
There is no note on Carl Wilhelm von Nägeli’s pamphlet in Carus’s revised translation (Bronn and Carus trans. 1867; see also letter to J. V. Carus, 10 November 1866 and n. 4). CD added a reference to Nägeli’s work on the morphological character of plants in Origin 5th ed., p. 151.
See Nägeli 1865, p. 24, for Nägeli’s comments on adaptation in alpine plants. For CD’s criticism of Nägeli, see the letter to J. V. Carus, 10 November 1866 and n. 5.
Thomas Henry Huxley. The encyclopedia for which Carus wrote biographies of CD and Huxley has not been identified.
Robert FitzRoy had commanded the Beagle during the voyage of 1832 to 1836 on which CD served as naturalist. In 1860, he attended the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting at Oxford, where he presented a paper to the meteorological section (FitzRoy 1860) and also made comments during the discussion of CD’s theory (see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix VI, and F. Darwin ed. 1892, p. 239). He committed suicide in 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13).


JVC proposes to correct Bronn’s mistakes [in his translation of Origin], but will not add his own notes.

Asks CD to write a note on Nägeli’s pamphlet [Entstehung und Begriff] for the revised edition.

Also requests biographical information for an encyclopedia article he has been asked to write.

Letter details

Letter no.
Julius Victor Carus
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 54
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5279,” accessed on 23 October 2018,

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