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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ernst Krause   13 August 1879

Waterhead Hotel | Coniston | Lancashire | England

Aug 13. 1879

(This will be my address for 2 or 3 weeks)

My dear Sir,

I have at last read consecutively my notice (which I have greatly condensed & altered in arrangement) and the translation of your article. I fear that you will be disappointed when I tell you that according to my judgment a large part of your article must be omitted.1 This has grieved me much; but it would be of no use whatever to publish a book which would not be read. It would be ridiculous to publish two biographies of the same man in the same volume: an English critic would say that your account of the life, though very well done, was merely a condensation of Miss Seward’s memoirs.2 Secondly your history of the progress of evolution seems to me to be quite out of its proper place in a short life of Dr Darwin; although I fully admit that it shows great research and has been to me personally very interesting. Thirdly the first part about the Botanic Garden appears to me too lengthy: an English critic would say that it was of no use to give the contents of each Canto, when any one could, if he cared, look at the book itself. Considering how long ago Dr Darwin lived, any life of him now ought to be very short. Therefore what I should wish to do would be to publish my preliminary notice condensed, with only parts of your essay presently to be indicated. But it is quite possible that you may object to my plan, and if you object I shall have no cause to complain, for I should never have thought of writing on the subject had it not been for your article in Kosmos.3 If you object I shall give up publishing, but shall print my own notice for private distribution among my friends.

I will now explain what I wish to do: after many doubts I think (as do friends whom I have consulted) that my Notice had better come first. I would then give the first 2 or 3 pages of your M.S as far as where you give your authorities   I would then omit the whole of your Life-part, as well as the historical sketch of evolution. So that after the two or three opening pages I would pass on to the general criticism on the Botanic Garden to be condensed. When you come to the transformation of species the whole of your article could be given with advantage as it now stands. The plan which I here propose has been formed after due deliberation, and with much regret on my side; but I hope that you will remember what I originally proposed was a translation of the article in Kosmos. If you assent to my plan, proof sheets shall be sent you both of my part and of your own. It is manifest that you can publish your essay in its extended form in Germany. I will explain in a preface (if you assent to my plan) about the article in Kosmos, your subsequent enlargement of it and your permission to me to condense it to dimensions fitted for the English public. Will you kindly let me hear your decision soon, because if you object to your article being cut down I must inform my publishers in London Paris & America, that I have given up the intention of publishing.4

I am extremely sorry to have caused you so much trouble & remain, my dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin


CD and Krause had been working on sections of Erasmus Darwin. CD had received the final part of the English translation of Krause’s manuscript in early August; see letter from W. S. Dallas, 6 August 1879.
Anna Seward’s Memoirs of the life of Dr. Darwin (Seward 1804).
For the parts that CD suggested omitting, see the German edition, in which Krause reinstated his introduction and a section on the history of evolutionary theory and added over 100 pages of notes (Krause 1880, pp. 78–124, 180–286). CD’s inspiration for the biography of Erasmus Darwin was Krause’s essay in KosmosErasmus Darwin, der Großvater und Vorkämpfer Charles Darwin’s: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Descendenz-Theorie’ (Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather and forerunner: a contribution to the history of descent theory; Krause 1879a). CD had initially asked Krause whether he might publish an English translation of this essay in his letter to Krause of 9 March 1879.
John Murray had agreed to publish the English edition of Erasmus Darwin; see letter from John Murray, 3 June [1879]. Reinwald had expressed an interest in publishing a French translation (see letter to Ernst Krause, 5 [May] 1879) but none was published. D. Appleton & Co. published Erasmus Darwin US ed. in 1880.


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

Erasmus Darwin US ed.: Erasmus Darwin. By Ernst Krause. Translated from the German by W. S. Dallas, with a preliminary notice by Charles Darwin. New York: D. Appleton and Company. 1880.

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.

Seward, Anna. 1804. Memoirs of the life of Dr. Darwin. London: J. Johnson.


CD regrets that he feels large parts of Krause’s essay [on Erasmus Darwin] must be omitted. Gives his criticisms and his plan for condensed publication of his own article, with only parts of EK’s. If EK is unwilling to change, CD will publish his article privately. It is manifest that EK can publish his essay in its extended form in Germany if he wishes to do so.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ernst Ludwig (Ernst) Krause
Sent from
Source of text
The Huntington Library (HM 36191)
Physical description
LS(A) 8pp & ADraft 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12192,” accessed on 23 July 2024,