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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. B. Aveling   12 October 1880

Royal Polytechnic. | W.


Dear Sir,

Many months ago I ventured to send you the earlier numbers of a series of articles on your works. Of these you were good enough to express your approval.1 The Magazine wherein they appeared came to an untimely end and I have since its decease rewritten the articles & published them together with many others, their successors in the National Reformer.2 The works hitherto dealt with are the Voyage, Volcanic Islands, Geology of S. America, Orchids, Climbing Plants, Insectivorous Plants. I purpose after a study of the Forms of Flowers & Cross & self-fertn. dealing with the Cirripedia & finally with the series commencing with the Origin & ending at present with the Emotions.3

My friends Mrs. Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh, M.P. contemplate publishing under the title of the International Library of Science & Freethought a series of works either by great scientific and freethinking men or upon their labors. The first of the series will be a translation of Dr L. Büchner’s “An dem Geistes leben der Thiere” by Mrs. Besant.4 To this translatn. Dr. Büchner has given full assent. A translatn. of some work from the pen of Ernst Häckel by myself is also designed5 and other arrangements in regard to French & Italian works are pending. We desire to make the second volume of the series my work upon your writings and teachings.6 To you, Sir, therefore I again write to know if such a plan will meet with your approval and have the distinct advantage of your personal sanction. We desire from you as from Dr. Büchner and Professor Häckel the illustrious support of your consent. As it is long since I last wrote, I remind you that the volume we desire to produce is designed (1) to give students of your writings a condensed analysis thereof (2) to give those who have not time to read your productions a brief account of your discoveries and ideas.

Further I purpose, again subject to your approval, to honor my work and myself by dedicating the former to you. If you approve of this my wish & of the general plan of our second publicatn., I need hardly say to you how honored we should be were you to see fit to give us the immense support of a few words stating that approval. This would without doubt aid us very greatly in our endeavor to reach large numbers of those who are yet but little acquainted with the thought-work of the 19th century, work with which your name must be for ever associated so closely. I forward herewith a little pamphlet of Dr. Büchner’s already translated into English by Mrs. Besant7 & if it will not be troubling you too greatly I should be very glad to send to you the proof-sheets of my work as they are issued.

With the hope that the help of your approval may be ours | I am | yours faithfully | Edward B. Aveling | D.Sc.Lond.


Aveling’s early articles were published in the Student’s Magazine and Science and Art (Aveling 1878–9). The National Reformer was a periodical owned and edited by the freethinker Charles Bradlaugh.
Aveling’s series of articles, ‘Darwin and his works’, appeared in twenty-eight instalments in the National Reformer between 16 November 1878 and 19 September 1880.
Besant and Bradlaugh had founded the Freethought Publishing Company. The translation of Ludwig Büchner’s Aus dem Geistesleben der Thiere (The mental life of animals; Büchner 1876) was published under the title Mind in animals in 1880 (Büchner 1880b).
Aveling’s translation of Ernst Haeckel’s work was published in 1883 under the title The pedigree of man: and other essays (Haeckel 1883).
This work was published in 1881 under the title The student’s Darwin (Aveling 1881).
Besant’s translation of Büchner’s pamphlet was published under the title The influence of heredity on free will (Büchner 1880a). This work has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.


Aveling, Edward Bibbins. 1878–9. Darwin and his work. Student’s Magazine and Science and Art, 2 September 1878, pp. 32–3; 1 October 1878, pp. 55–7; 2 December 1878, pp. 99–100; 1 February 1879, pp. 148–9; 1 March 1879, pp. 175–6; 1 April 1879, pp. 207–8; 1 September 1879, pp. 30–3.

Aveling, Edward Bibbins. 1881. The student’s Darwin. London: Freethought Publishing Company.

Büchner, Ludwig. 1876b. Aus dem Geistesleben der Thiere. Berlin: A. Hofmann.

Büchner, Ludwig. 1880a. The influence of heredity on free will. Translated by Annie Besant. London: Freethought Publishing Company.

Büchner, Ludwig. 1880b. Mind in animals. Translated by Annie Besant. London: Freethought Publishing Company.

Haeckel, Ernst. 1883a. The pedigree of man: and other essays. Translated by E. B. Aveling. London: Freethought Publishing Company.


Mentions CD’s approval of earlier articles on CD’s works, and requests approval and permission to dedicate to CD a second work on CD’s thought for the International Library of Science and Free-thought.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Bibbens Aveling
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Royal Polytechnic
Source of text
DAR 159: 133
Physical description
ALS 4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12754,” accessed on 8 June 2023,