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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ernst Krause   14 May 1879

Bassett, Southampton

May 14th. 79

(Home on May 25th.)1

My dear Sir

If after seeing my proof-sheets you keep of same mind & are willing to give your consent, assuredly I shall not change my mind, but shall be grateful to bring out a translation of your article, in nearly the same state as it appeared in Kosmos.2 It shall be entitled your life with Preliminary notice by me.—3 The work is wholly due to you.— It is rather unfortunate that Mr Butler shd. have published at the present time, but it makes no difference in my determination.4 I have only glanced at what he says. He is a very clever man, knows nothing about science & turns everything into ridicule. He hates scientific men.

I cannot understand his views. Even if we grant memory & the power of wishing to cells, & this is an enormous admission, I do not see how cells are to modify themselves chemically & structurally either by wishing or remembering.—5 I shd. like to hear whether he supposes that the crop (or œsophagus) of a Pouter pigeon or the leaves of a cabbage became modified by wishing & memory.— But I did not intend to scribble on this subject.

I forgot to say that you have my complete consent to do anything you like with my Preliminary Notice, to print it at beginning or at end of your article,—to cut it up or use the facts or insert parts anywhere you like.6

yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The Darwins returned home on 26 May 1879 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
Krause’s essay on Erasmus Darwin had been published in German in the periodical Kosmos (Krause 1879a). He was revising it before translation for publication in Erasmus Darwin (see letter from Ernst Krause, 8 May 1879).
Krause had stated that CD’s biographical sketch of Erasmus Darwin would be the most important part of a German edition of their work (see letter from Ernst Krause, 8 May 1879).
Samuel Butler had published a book on the evolutionary theories of Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon; Jean Baptiste de Lamarck; and Erasmus Darwin (S. Butler 1879).
CD alludes to ideas about cell memory discussed in Butler’s previous book, Life and habit (S. Butler 1878, pp. 186–7).
CD refers to Krause’s preparation of a German edition of their work on Erasmus Darwin (Krause 1880; see letter from Ernst Krause, 8 May 1879).


Butler, Samuel. 1878. Life and habit. London: Trübner & Co.

Butler, Samuel. 1879. Evolution, old and new: or, the theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck, as compared with that of Mr. Charles Darwin. London: Hardwicke and Bogue.

Erasmus Darwin. By Ernst Krause. Translated from the German by W. S. Dallas, with a preliminary notice by Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1879.

Krause, Ernst. 1879a. Erasmus Darwin, der Großvater und Vorkämpfer Charles Darwin’s: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Descendenz-Theorie. Kosmos 4 (1878–9): 397–424.

Krause, Ernst. 1880. Erasmus Darwin und seine Stellung in der Geschichte der Descendenz-Theorie von Ernst Krause. Mit seinem Lebens- und Charakterbilde von Charles Darwin. Leipzig: Ernst Günther.


Assures EK that he will not change his mind about publishing a translation of EK’s article on Erasmus Darwin. It is unfortunate that Samuel Butler should have published [Evolution, old and new] just then, but that does not change CD’s determination.

Butler is clever, but knows no science. His views that cells have memory and the power of wishing – even if correct – cannot explain how they could change themselves chemically or structurally.

EK can do anything he likes with CD’s preface [to Erasmus Darwin].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ernst Ludwig (Ernst) Krause
Sent from
Source of text
The Huntington Library (HM 36184)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12052,” accessed on 4 June 2023,