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Darwin Correspondence Project



George Bentham
George Bentham, Journal of Botany, British and foreign, plate facing p353
CUL Q370.c.32.13
Cambridge University Library

Darwin in letters, 1861: Gaining allies

The year 1861 marked an important change in the direction of Darwin’s work. He had weathered the storm that followed the publication of Origin, and felt cautiously optimistic about the ultimate acceptance of his ideas. The letters from this year provide an unusually detailed and intimate understanding of Darwin’s problem-solving method of work. The beginning of the American Civil War and the possibility of British involvement brings an unusally political flavour to the correspondence with tensions increasingly evident between two of his closest friends and supporters, Joseph Hooker and the American Asa Gray. 

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George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll
George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, by George Frederic Watts, oil on panel, circa 1860, NPG 1263
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Beauty and the seed

One of the real pleasures afforded in reading Charles Darwin’s correspondence is the discovery of areas of research on which he never published, but which interested him deeply. We can gain many insights about Darwin’s research methods by following these ‘letter trails’ and observing how correspondence served as a vital research tool for him.

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