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Darwin Correspondence Project

To ?   24 June [1877]1

Bassett, Southampton

June 24th

⁠⟨⁠1 page obscured⁠⟩⁠ that each person shd. follow his natural bent & improve his natural special abilities. I may however mention that I can hardly doubt that a close study of Mill’s Logic would be highly improving to anyone.—2

Hardly any book ever stirred up my zeal for Science so much as Herschel’s Introduction to the study of Natural Philosophy.—3 From all that I hear I fear that both literature & Science are poor lines as a profession.

I remain | Dear Sir | yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the address. CD stayed at William Erasmus Darwin’s house in Bassett, Southampton, from 13 June to 4 July 1877 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
In the fifth edition of his System of logic, John Stuart Mill referred to CD’s theory of descent as an ‘unimpeachable example of a legitimate hypothesis’ obeying the ‘rules of induction’ (Mill 1862, 2: 18 n.; see also Correspondence vol. 11, letter from E. A. Darwin, 9 November [1863]).
In ‘Recollections’, pp. 381–2, CD remarked that reading John Frederick William Herschel’s Preliminary discourse on the study of natural philosophy (Herschel 1830a), together with Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal narrative (Humboldt 1814–29), ‘stirred up in [him] a burning zeal to add even the most humble contribution to the noble structure of Natural Science’.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Humboldt, Alexander von. 1814–29. Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, during the years 1799–1804. By Alexander de Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland. Translated into English by Helen Maria Williams. 7 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown; J. Murray; H. Colburn.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.


Advises correspondent on adopting a career; "each person shd. follow his natural bent & improve his special abilities".

Strongly recommends study of J. S. Mill’s Logic.

His own zeal for science was most stimulated by Herschel’s Introduction to the study of natural philosophy.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Sotheby’s (dealers) (25 July 1972); Kobunso (dealer) (1974)
Physical description
ALS * 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11014,” accessed on 13 July 2024,