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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ernst Haeckel   8 January 1867

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Jan 8th. 1867

My dear Prof. Haeckel

I received some weeks ago your great work.1 I have read several parts, but I am too poor a German scholar and the book is too large for me to read it all; I cannot tell you how much I regret this, for I am sure that nearly the whole would interest me greatly, and I have already found several parts very useful, such as the discussion on cells, and on the different forms of reproduction.2 I feel sure after considering the subject deliberately, and after consulting with Huxley, that it would be hopeless to endeavour to get a publisher to print an English translation; the work is too profound and too long for our English country-men.3

The number of new terms would also I am sure tell much against its sale; and indeed I wish for my own sake that you had printed a glossary of all the new terms which you use.4 I fully expect that your book will be highly successful in Germany; and the manner in which you often refer to me in your text, and your dedication and the title I shall always look at as one of the greatest honours conferred on me during my life.5

I sincerely hope that you have had a prosperous expedition and have met with many new and interesting animals6   If you have spare time, I should much like to hear what you have been doing and observing. As for myself I have sent the M.S. of my book on “Domestic Animals &c” to the printers; it turned out to be much too large; it will not be published I suppose until next November.7 I find that we have discussed several of the same subjects, and I think we agree on most points fairly well. I have lately heard several times from Fritz Müller, but he seems now cheifly to be working on plants.8 I often think of your visit to this house, which I enjoyed extremely, and it will ever be to me a real pleasure to remember our acquaintance.9 From what I heard in London, I think you made many friends there,10 Shall you return through England; if so, and you can spare the time, we shall all be delighted to see you here again.

With cordial good wishes for your success in every way, believe | Dear Haeckel | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


CD refers to Haeckel’s Generelle Morphologie (Haeckel 1866). He had earlier received a proof-sheet of the book (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to Ernst Haeckel, 18 August [1866]). There is an annotated copy of Haeckel 1866 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 355–7).
CD also mentioned the difficulty he was having in reading Haeckel 1866 in the letter to Fritz Müller, [before 10 December 1866], the letter to T. H. Huxley, 22 December [1866] (Correspondence vol. 14), and the letter to T. H. Huxley, 7 January [1867] (this volume). For Haeckel’s discussion of cells, see Haeckel 1866, 1: 269–89; for his discussion of different forms of reproduction see ibid., 2: 32–109. These sections are lightly annotated in CD’s copy (see Marginalia 1: 355–7).
CD consulted Thomas Henry Huxley in his letter of 22 December [1866] (Correspondence vol. 14). For Huxley’s reply, see his letter of [before 7 January 1867]; see also letter to T. H. Huxley, 7 January [1867], and L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 288–9.
The subtitle to Haeckel 1866 reads: ‘Allgemeine Grundzüge der organischen Formen-Wissenschaft, mechanisch begründet durch die von Charles Darwin reformirte Descendenz-Theorie’ (General outline of the science of organic form, mechanically established through the theory of descent, reformed by Charles Darwin). The second volume of Haeckel 1866 has the following dedication: ‘Den begründern der Descendenz-Theorie, den denkenden Naturforschern, Charles Darwin, Wolfgang Goethe, Jean Lamarck, widmet diese Grundzüge der allgemeinen Entwickelungsgeschichte in vorzüglicher Verehrung’ (To the founders of descent-theory, the thinking naturalists, Charles Darwin, Wolfgang Goethe, Jean Lamarck, this outline of general developmental history is dedicated with greatest respect). See also ibid., 2: 166–70, for Haeckel’s discussion of Darwinism.
In his letter to Fritz Müller of [before 10 December 1866] (Correspondence vol. 14) CD mentioned that Haeckel would be in Madeira over the winter working largely on the Medusae; see also this volume, letter to T. H. Huxley, 7 January [1867] and n. 4. In the event, Haeckel and two students spent most of the winter at Lanzarote, where they studied hydrozoans and siphonophores (Krauße 1987, pp. 76–7).
CD’s most recent letters from Fritz Müller were those of 1 and 3 October 1866, [2 November 1866], and 1 December 1866 (Correspondence vol. 14).
Haeckel visited Down House on 21 October 1866 (see Correspondence vol. 14).
Haeckel met Huxley and Charles Lyell while in London in 1866 (see Krauße 1987, pp. 76–7).


Comments on EH’s "great work" [Generelle Morphologie].

An English translation "hopeless".

Asks about EH’s expedition.

MS of Variation sent to printers.

Fritz Müller working on plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ernst Philipp August (Ernst) Haeckel
Sent from
Source of text
Ernst-Haeckel-Haus (Bestand A-Abt. 1-52/12)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5349,” accessed on 24 April 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15