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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. B. Buckley   11 February [1876]1

Down Beckenham

Feb. 11th.

My dear Miss Buckley

You must let me have the pleasure of saying that I have just finished reading with very great interest your new book.2 The idea seems to me a capital one and as far as I can judge very well carried out. There is much fascination in taking a bird’s eye view of all the grand leading steps in the progress of science. At first I regretted that you had not kept each science more separate; but I daresay you found it impossible.— I have hardly any criticisms, except that I think you ought to have introduced Murchison as a great classifier of formations, second only to W. Smith. You have done full justice, and not more than justice, to our dear old Master, Lyell.—3 Perhaps a little more ought to have been said about Botany, and if you should ever add this, you would find Sachs’ History, lately published, very good for your purpose.4

You have crowned Wallace and myself with much honour and glory.5 I heartily congratulate you on having produced so novel and interesting a work, and remain, | My dear Miss Buckley | Your’s very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Buckley’s book (see n. 2, below).
Buckley’s A short history of natural science was published in the second half of January 1876 (Buckley 1876; Publishers’ Circular, 1 February 1876, p. 84). CD’s copy is in the Darwin Library–Down.
Buckley had organised her book chronologically rather than by individual branches of science, and often only a single branch of science was featured in a given time period. Buckley had mentioned Roderick Impey Murchison in passing as ‘another celebrated geologist’ (Buckley 1876, p. 406). She discussed William Smith’s contributions in detail, referring to him as one of the founders of the science of geology (ibid., pp. 223–4). Buckley discussed Charles Lyell’s work in establishing the uniformitarian theory of geological change (ibid., pp. 405–10). She had worked as Lyell’s secretary from 1864 until his death in 1875 (ODNB).
Julius Sachs’s Geschichte der Botanik vom 16. Jahrhundert bis 1860 (History of botany from the sixteenth century to 1860; Sachs 1875b) was published in 1875.
Buckley described the independent discovery of the theory of natural selection by CD and Alfred Russel Wallace in Buckley 1876, pp. 425–6.


Buckley, Arabella Burton. 1876. A short history of natural science and of the progress of discovery from the time of the Greeks to the present day: for the use of schools and young persons. London: John Murray.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Comments on her new book [A short history of natural science (1876)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Arabella Burton Buckley
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 179
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10387,” accessed on 26 February 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24