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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. B. Buckley   11 July 1881

Down Beckenham

July 11th. 1881

My dear Miss Buckley

I have read your life of Lyell with great interest.1 I do not think that it could have been better done; and you have brought out clearly and forcibly his high merits.— I have put in pencil one or two words on the few first pages for your consideration.— I have put a query to about the Dismal Swamp and Coal, for does it throw more light on the subject than a peat bed?2 Page 22 was missing when the M.S. arrived here, but I was able partly to guess its contents.

For such a publication I suppose you do not want to say much about his private character; otherwise his strong sense of humour and love of society might have been added.— Also his extreme interest in the progress of the world and in the happiness of Mankind. Also his freedom from all religious bigotry, though these perhaps would be a superfluity. You have spoken strongly but I think that you might speak even more strongly about his sympathy with the work of all scientific men.—3 His clear and solid judgment, together with his energy combined with his love of science always seemed to me his prominent characteristics. You must have enjoyed, I should think, writing this sketch, and all of Lyell’s admirers ought to feel grateful to you.

My dear Miss Buckley | Your’s sincerely. | Charles Darwin


Buckley had sent CD the manuscript of her entry on Charles Lyell for the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica (Buckley 1883).
In the published entry, Buckley noted that during his American tours Lyell ‘studied those vegetable accumulations in the “Great Dismal Swamp” of Virginia, which he afterwards used in illustrating the formation of beds of coal.’ In Travels in North America, Lyell suggested that the Great Dismal Swamp supported the case he had long been making that the coal measures were deposited on land, rather than in the sea, and that peat-like deposits could be produced in a warmer and sunnier climate than that prevailing in Scotland and Ireland (C. Lyell 1845, 1: 142–9).
In her entry, Buckley wrote: ‘His funeral was attended by an immense concourse of public men, all his personal friends; for by young and old the veteran master of geology was deeply loved and revered. His gentle nature, his intense love of truth, his anxiety to help and encourage those who cultivated his favourite science, endeared him to all who approached him; while the extreme freshness of his mind kept him free from that dogmatism which is so often the accompaniment of old age, and enabled him to accept and appreciate heartily the work of younger men.’


Buckley, Arabella Burton. 1883. Lyell, Sir Charles (1797–1875). In EB 9th ed. Edinburgh: A. and C. Black.

EB 9th ed.: The Encyclopaedia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, and general literature. 9th edition. 24 vols. and index. Edinburgh: A. and C. Black. 1875–89.

Lyell, Charles. 1845b. Travels in North America; with geological observations on the United States, Canada, and Nova Scotia. 2 vols. London: John Murray.


Comments on her life of Lyell.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Arabella Burton Buckley
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 187
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13242,” accessed on 17 April 2024,