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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Karl von Scherzer   1 April 1878

Down, | Beckenham, Kent | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

April 1st. 1878

My dear Sir

I am extremely glad to hear of Häckels successful reception in Vienna.1 With respect to Virchow, his address appeared to me very arrogant, & he lectured the best naturalists in Germany, as if they had been school-boys.—2 No doubt his address will have a considerable effect on many persons, though it has produced none on me. The principle of evolution is too well established for any one man to shake it.—

I am extremely sorry to hear of the death of Arthur Lane: should you have any fitting opportunity when you next see Dr. Lane, I hope that you will express for me my sympathy3

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


Haeckel had been on a lecture tour popularising evolution in February and March 1878 (Krauße 1987, p. 133). He gave a lecture in Vienna on 22 March 1878 on cell souls and soul cells (Haeckel 1878). The letter from Scherzer has not been found.
Rudolf Carl Virchow had given an address to the Assembly of German Naturalists and Physicians titled ‘The liberty of science in the modern state’ in Munich in September 1877; an English version of the text was published in Nature, 22 November 1877, pp. 72–4; 29 November 1877, pp. 92–4; 6 December 1877, pp. 111–13. Virchow was responding to Haeckel’s address at the same meeting titled ‘The present position of the evolution theory’, which advocated that evolution be taught in schools (Haeckel’s address was published in English in Nature, 4 October 1877, pp. 492–6). Virchow held that the German nation would regard naturalists favourably only if they exercised moderation with respect to personal speculation, especially in relation to the theory of descent. He therefore advocated that the theory of evolution should not be taught in schools. These issues were part of Kulturkampf (culture struggle), the power struggles surrounding the role of the Catholic Church in the emerging secular nation state; Virchow’s address delighted the religious right, while secular liberals felt betrayed (Hopwood 2015, p. 137).
Arthur Lane was the son of CD’s hydropathic doctor and friend Edward Wickstead Lane. Scherzer and his wife, Julie Karoline Scherzer, had visited Lane’s hydropathic establishment in Richmond, Surrey, in late 1876 or in 1877 (see Correspondence vol. 24, letter to Karl von Scherzer, 24 December 1876). The envelope that contained CD’s letter was addressed to Scherzer at a hotel called The Mansion in Richmond, Surrey; Scherzer was possibly being treated at Lane’s hydropathic establishment at Ham, near Richmond, in April 1878.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Hopwood, Nick. 2015. Haeckel’s embryos: images, evolution, and fraud. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Krauße, Erika. 1987. Ernst Haeckel. 2d edition. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner.


Glad to hear of Ernst Haeckel’s reception in Vienna.

R. Virchow’s address ["Liberty of science", Nature 17 (1877–8): 72–4, 92–4, 111–13] very arrogant.

Sorry to hear of death of Arthur Lane.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Karl von Scherzer
Sent from
Source of text
University of Southern California Libraries, Special Collections, Feuchtwanger Memorial Library (Collection no. 0204, Lion Feuchtwanger papers, Box 01)
Physical description
2pp & C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11460,” accessed on 18 January 2022,