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Darwin Correspondence Project

To F. W. Harmer   29 August 1872

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Augt. 29th. ’72

Dear Sir,

I am sorry that you have become involved in a troublesome controversy on my part. The sentence given by Mr Lyon in inverted commas is an invention, & it is a most unjustifiable proceeding on his part. He might of course have given any interpretation which he pleased of my words, but he had no right to put the words in inverted commas.1 I may add that I have given in the later & more especially in the 6th. Ed. of the Origin many cases showing how Common generalised forms, (that is forms partaking of the characters of existing distinct groups) are in all the more ancient formations.2 I have always been curious to hear who wrote Homo v. Darwin. Mr. Lyon can hardly have the disposition of a gentleman, for in one place he states that I speak the truth solely because I should be found out if I lied.—3

I hope that you will soon be able to bring your controversy to an end and I remain in haste | Dear Sir, | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin


William Penman Lyon had misquoted CD. See letter from F. W. Harmer, 28 August 1872 and nn. 2 and 3.
CD added material on the affinities between extinct and living species to Origin 5th ed., pp. 402–3, and Origin 6th ed., pp. 301–3.
The passage alluded to in Lyon [1871] has not been identified. CD evidently owned a copy of the book; the Cambridge University Library copy of Lyon [1871] was ‘donated by the executors of the late Mrs Charles Darwin’.


Explains that William Penman Lyon has misquoted CD in Lyon [1871].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Frederic William Harmer
Sent from
Source of text
Ipswich Museum (IPSMG: R.1924-134)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8490F,” accessed on 11 December 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20