skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   14 October 1869

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Oct 14. 1869

My dear Huxley

I have been delighted to see yr Rev. of Häckel, & as usual you pile honours high on my head.1 But I write now (requiring no answer) to groan a little over what you have said about rudimentary organs. Many heretics will take advantage of what you have said. I cannot but think that the explanation given at p. 541 of the last Ed of the Origin of the long retention of rudimentary organs & of their greater relative size during early life, is satisfactory.2 Their final & complete abortion seems to me a much greater difficulty. Do look in my “Var under Dom.” Vol. 2. p 397. at what Pangenesis suggests on this head, though I did not dare to put it in the Origin.3

The passage bears also a little on the struggle between the molecules or gemmules. There is likewise a word or 2 indirectly bearing on this subject at p 394–395. It won’t take you 5 minutes, so do look at these passages.

I am very glad that you have been bold enough to give yr idea about nat. selection amongst the molecules, though I cannot quite follow you.4

Whenever you can spare time let me hear about the horse’s tooth from S. America—5

Ever yours most truly | Charles Darwin

Good Heavens what a deal of work there is in you.—


Huxley’s review of Ernst Haeckel’s Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte (Natural history of creation; Haeckel 1868) appeared in the 9 October and 13 November 1869 issues of the Academy (T. H. Huxley 1869d).
CD is probably complaining about Huxley’s arguments concerning teleology. Huxley discussed rudimentary organs in the context of Haeckel’s arguments against teleology (T. H. Huxley 1869d, p. 14). Huxley argued against ‘coarser forms’ of teleology which posited that organs such as the eye were specially designed for the purpose of seeing, but allowed that there was a ‘wider Teleology’ based on the fundamental proposition of evolution, which Huxley defined as the lawlike mutual interaction of the forces possessed by molecules (ibid., p. 13). CD refers to Origin 5th ed.
See Variation 2: 397–8.
See T. H. Huxley 1869d, p. 14.
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 21 [September 1869].


Delighted with THH’s review [in Academy (1869)] of Haeckel’s [Natürliche] Schöpfungsgeschichte [1868],

but groans about THH’s view of rudimentary organs. Cites Origin and Variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 277)
Physical description
3pp & AdraftS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6936,” accessed on 26 June 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17