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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   11 April [1853]1

Down, Farnborough, Kent.

April 11,

My dear Sir

I heard you say that you were at work at the Ascidiæ.2 I have some 12–15 specimens in Spirits; I hope in fairish condition. It is very likely that you may have more than you want, but should you like my specimens they are completely at your service. It will give me some trouble to get them out of several large bottles, but it would give me real pleasure should you wish to have and examine them, but please do not say you should like them for mere form-sake. The colours are noted in some instances.

I procured a compound Ascidian (Boltenia?) at the Falklands3 (now I believe preserved in spirits) like a strawberry on a long foot-stalk; in this there were ova in all states which seemed to pass as they became mature out of what I considered the ovarium, into two gut-formed bags in each individual; and here they could be traced passing into larva, first with a long tail, (having transverse septa) coiled round the head or body, and then free, and causing the larva to be locomotive. In the same compound individual all the eggs and larvæ were in the same state; and when most matured, the animals were so shrunk, that the whole seemed formed of the gut-formed bags with the larvæ. In another genus (now dried) from T. del Fuego, there were also tailed larvæ.4 My descriptions were only such as an ignorant school-boy might make. Doubtless you have Müller’s “Uber die Larven … Echinodermen, Viertel Abhand:, 1852,5 Müller sent me a copy which is really wasted on me, and would be at the service of anyone who would value it.6

You spoke as if you had had an intention to review my Cirripedia: it is very indelicate in me to say so, but it would give me great pleasure to see my work reviewed by any one so capable as you of praising anything which might deserve praise, and criticising the errors which no doubt it contains. My chief reason for wishing it, is, otherwise I do not believe any foreigner will ever hear of its existence. It has been published a year, and no notice has been taken of it by any zoologist,7 except briefly by Dana.8 Upon my honour I never did such a thing before as suggest (not that I have exactly suggested this time) a review to any human being. But having done so, I may mention that in my own opinion, the Limulus-like larva in 1st stage;—the mouthless pupa;—especially the method of cement with its modifications;—the senses;—& homologies & sexual peculiarities,—are the most curious points,—but I daresay I greatly exaggerate their curiosity, for I have become a man of one idea,—cirripedes morning & night.—9

I am perfectly aware that with every wish on your part it may easily happen, that you could not spare time for old work,10 you having so much valuable new work.

Forgive the length & egotistical character of this note, & believe me | very truly your’s | Charles Darwin


The year of this letter is established by the reference to Living Cirripedia (1851) having been published a year previously (see n. 7, below).
Huxley was cataloguing the British Museum collection of Ascidia. He had reported on some of his findings to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1852 (T. H. Huxley 1852).
Described in CD’s zoological diary from the voyage of the Beagle (DAR 30.2: 167–72), where it is called ‘Synoicum’. The specimens were collected on 2 April 1833 on East Falkland Island.
Described as ‘Holothuria’ in the zoological diary (DAR 30.2: 173).
CD refers to Müller 1852, issued separately with a title-page indicating it to be the fourth part of Johannes Peter Müller’s Über die Larven und die Metamorphose der Echinodermen. Huxley had reviewed Müller’s previous papers on echinoderms (see letter to T. H. Huxley, 17 July [1851], n. 1).
An unannotated reprint of Müller 1852 is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Fossil Cirripedia (1851) had been announced in the Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Zoologie) 3d ser. 15 (1851): 175, but later volumes were not noticed, even though Living Cirripedia (1854) was dedicated to Henri Milne-Edwards, editor of the journal. The restricted circulation of Ray and Palaeontographical Society publications on the Continent, particularly in Germany, in part explains why the monograph went unnoticed. Only in 1856 was Living Cirripedia (1851) reviewed by Julius Viktor Carus in his survey of zoological literature for the Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Zoologie, edited by Karl Theodor Ernst von Siebold and Rudolph Albert von Koelliker (7, supp. (1856): 75–6).
James Dwight Dana’s review had appeared in July 1852 (see letter to J. D. Dana, 25 November [1852], n. 6). A generally favourable anonymous notice had also appeared in the Athenæum, no. 1304, 23 October 1852, pp. 1138–9.
Huxley did not review Living Cirripedia (1851), but in one of his ‘Lectures on general natural history’, a series published in the Medical Times and Gazette, he praised Darwin’s monograph as ‘one of the most beautiful and complete anatomical and zoological monographs which has appeared in our time, and is the more remarkable as proceeding from a philosopher highly distinguished in quite different branches of science, and not an anatomist ex professo’ (T. H. Huxley 1857, p. 238 n.). He mentioned the points suggested by CD, but did not wholly agree with CD’s interpretations. He took, for instance, a slightly different view of the homologies of the cirripedes, believing the carapace must consist of thoracic segments in addition to the three cephalic segments CD recognised. Huxley agreed with CD that the gut-formed glands, the cement glands and ducts, and the peduncular ovarian tubes were modified parts of a single organ system, but he believed the ovarian tubes and not the gut-formed glands were the true ovaria. He also doubted CD’s identification of two glands as acoustic and olfactory organs.
Huxley had turned in 1853 to work on the cephalous molluscs, greatly different from the ascidians and medusae on which he had previously concentrated. His numerous other publishing and editorial activities at this time are listed in L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 107.


Fossil Cirripedia (1851): A monograph on the fossil Lepadidæ, or, pedunculated cirripedes of Great Britain. By Charles Darwin. London: Palaeontographical Society. 1851.

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1852. Researches into the structure of the Ascidians. Report of the 22d meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Belfast, Transactions of the sections, pp. 76–7. Reprinted in Foster and Lankester, eds. 1898–1903, 1: 194–6.

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

Müller, Johannes Peter. 1852. Fortsetzung der Untersuchungen über die Metamorphose der Echinodermen (Pt 4 of "Über die Larven und die Metamorphose der Echinodermen’). [Read 7 November 1850, 28 April, and 10 November 1851.] Abhandlungen der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, pp. 37–86.


Offers to send Ascidia specimens of Beagle voyage. Describes some of them.

Hopes THH will review his book [Living Cirripedia, vol. 1] which has been published for a year with no notice taken of it except briefly by Dana.

Discusses Limulus-like larva. "I have become a man of one idea.– cirripedes morning & night."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 145: 150Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 13)
Physical description
C 3pp ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1514,” accessed on 17 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5