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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   3 July [1849]

Down Farnborough Kent

July 3d.

My dear Lyell

As I know you are particular in accuracy even to minutest point, I send one line to say that you speak of Megatherium having been found as far South as 50o. 1 I never found it further than 39o. & I do not think that Sulivan found Megatherium, in southern Patagonia.—2

It appeared to me that there was either misplaced or omitted words in two places but these you would certainly observe in correcting for 2d Edit;3 I may just mention that one was in 2d. Vol about the diameter of a great Equatorial telescope;4 & the other was in 1st. vol about oxygen & anthracite which I cd. not at all understand.—5 I cannot give pages for I left my copy at Malvern with the Wedgwoods. I finished it before leaving & a most interesting work it is— I don’t know when I have read a book so interesting: some of your stories are very rich.—

You ought to be made Minister of Public Education; not but what I shd. think even that beneath the Author of the Old Principles.— Your Book must, I shd. think, do a great deal of good & set people thinking. I quite agree with Athenæum6 that you have shown how a man of Science can bring his power’s of observation on Social Subjects.— You have made H. Wedgwood, heart & soul, an American; he wishes the States would annex us, & was all day marvelling how anyone, who could pay his passage-money, was so foolish as to remain here.—

I wish Lady Lyell & yourself a most pleasant summer. | Yours | C. Darwin


See South America, p. 105. CD’s specimen was found at Punta Alta, near Rio Negro, Patagonia. Bartholomew James Sulivan had found fossils at Rio Gallegos in Southern Patagonia (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 13 January – 12 February 1845), but no mention is made of Megatherium in CD’s account (South America, p. 117). Richard Owen had not finished examining the specimens by the time South America went to press (October 1846), but he had identified ‘some large, but mostly small, species of Pachydermata, Edentata and Rodentia’.
No second edition of C. Lyell 1849 was published.
C. Lyell 1849, 2: 294, in which Lyell remarked that there was an equatorial telescope with a diameter of 17 feet 12 inches, a mistake for 18 feet.
A reference to Lyell’s description of natural anthracite deposits in Virginia, to the east of the Appalachian Mountains. He suggested that former beds of coal had been converted into coke as a result of nearby volcanic rocks having driven off all the gaseous matter (C. Lyell 1849, 2: 286).
A review of C. Lyell 1849 appeared in the Athenæum, no. 1130, 23 June 1849, pp. 640–2.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

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

Lyell, Charles. 1849. A second visit to the United States of North America. 2 vols. London. [Vols. 4,7]

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.


Discusses CL’s Second visit to the United States [1849]. Corrects CL’s error regarding location of Megatherium finds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.79)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1248,” accessed on 28 February 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4