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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ernst Haeckel   27 December 1871

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Dec 27. 1871

My dear Häckel

I thank you for yr very interesting letter, which it has given me much pleasure to receive. I never heard of any thing so odd as a Prior in the holy Catholic Church believing in our ape-like progenitors.1 I much hope that the Jesuits will not dislodge him.

What a wonderfully active man you are! & I rejoice that you have been so successful in yr work on sponges.

Your book with 60 plates will be magnificent.2 I shall be glad to learn what you think of Clarke’s view about sponges being flagellate infusorians: some observers in this country believe in him.3 I am glad you are going fully to consider inheritance, which is an all-important subject for us. I do not know whether you have ever read my Chapter on Pangenesis:4 my ideas have been almost universally despised; & I suppose that I was foolish to publish them; yet I must still think that there is some truth in them; any how they have aided me much in making me clearly understand the facts of inheritance.

I have had bad health this last summer, & during 2 months was able to do nothing.5 But I have now almost finished a new edit. of the Origin, which Victor Carus is translating. There is not much new in it, except one chapter in which I have answered, I hope satisfactorily, Mr Mivart’s supposed difficulty on the incipient development of useful structures. I have also given my reasons for quite disbelieving in great & sudden modifications.6 I am preparing an essay on expression in man & the lower animals; it has little importance, but has interested me.7 I doubt whether my strength will last for much more serious work. I hope however to publish next summer the results of my long continued experiments on the wonderful advantages derived from crossing.8 I shall continue to work as long as I can; but it does not much signify when I stop, as there are so many good men fully as capable, perhaps more capable than myself, of carrying on our work; & of these you rank as the first.

With cordial good wishes for your success in all your work, & for your happiness, believe me | my dear Häckel | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


See letter from Ernst Haeckel, 21 December 1871. Bonagracija Marojević was prior of the Franciscan monastery at Lesina (Hvar).
Haeckel 1872a.
The American zoologist Henry James Clark argued that sponges were animals, with affinities to flagellate Infusoria (H. J. Clark 1871).
CD published his provisional hypothesis of pangenesis in Variation 2: 357–404. See also letter from Francis Galton, 9 January 1871, n. 1.
CD and his family had spent the end of July and most of August in Albury in Surrey, in order for CD to rest (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II), and letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 July [1871]).
CD added a substantially new seventh chapter to Origin 6th ed., in which he discussed the objections of St George Jackson Mivart and others to the theory of natural selection; for the ‘supposed incompetence of natural selection to account for the incipient stages of useful structures’, see Origin 6th ed., pp. 177–98; for ‘reasons for disbelieving in great and abrupt modifications’, see pp. 201–4. The German translation was made by Julius Victor Carus (Bronn and Carus trans. 1872; see letter from J. V. Carus, 7 October 1871 and n. 7).
Expression was published in 1872.
Cross and self fertilisation was published in 1876.


Refers to priest who believes in "our ape-like progenitors".

EH’s work on sponges.


Describes new edition of Origin [6th]

and his work on plant crossing.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ernst Philipp August (Ernst) Haeckel
Sent from
Source of text
Ernst-Haeckel-Haus, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena (Bestand A Abt. 1–52/26)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8121,” accessed on 23 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19