skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   2 September [1854]

Down Farnborough Kent

Sept. 2d.

My dear Sir

My second volume on the everlasting Barnacles is at last published, & I will do myself the pleasure of sending you a copy to Jermyn St1 next Thursday, as I have to send another book there to Mr. Baily.—2

And now I want to ask you a favour namely to answer me two questions. As you are so perfectly familiar with the doings &c of all continental naturalists, I want you to tell me a few names of those whom you think wd. care for my volume. I do not mean in the light of puffing my book, but I want not to send copies to those who from other studies, age &c &c wd view it as waste paper.— From assistance rendered me, I consider myself bound to send copies to

  • 1. Bosquet of Maestricht
  • 2. Milne Edwards
  • 3 Dana.
  • 4 Agassiz
  • 5 Muller
  • 6. W. Dunker of Hesse Cassel (?)3

Now I have 5 or 6 other copies to distribute & will you be so very kind as to help me? I had thought of Von Siebold, Loven, d’Orbigny, Kolliker, Sars, Kroyer, &c.4 but I know hardly anything about any of them.—

My second question, it is merely a chance whether you can answer, it is whether I can send these Books or any of them (in some cases accompanied by specimens) through the Royal Society: I have some vague idea of having heard that the Royal Soc. did sometimes thus assist members.—

I have just been reading your Review of the Vestiges,5 & the way you handle a great Professor is really exquisite & inimitable.6 I have been extremely interested on other parts & to my mind it is incomparably the best review I have read on the Vestiges; but I cannot think but that you are rather hard on the poor author. I must think that such a book, if it does no other good, spreads the taste for natural science.—

But I am perhaps no fair judge for I am almost as unorthodox about species as the Vestiges itself, though I hope not quite so unphilosophical. How capitally you analyse his notion about law. I do not know when I have read a review which interested me so much. By Heavens how the blood must have gushed into the capillaries when a certain great man (whom with all his faults I cannot help liking) read it.—7

I am rather sorry you do not think more of Agassizs embryological stages,8 for though I saw how excessively weak the evidence was, I was led to hope in its truth. I had no intention of prosing in this manner when I begun.

Pray believe me yours sincerely | C. Darwin


Huxley had been appointed lecturer on natural history at the School of Mines in July 1854; the position had been made vacant by Edward Forbes’s appointment as professor at Edinburgh. The school was located in the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street, London.
William Hellier Baily, naturalist with the Geological Survey.
Joseph Augustin Hubert de Bosquet, Henri Milne-Edwards, James Dwight Dana, Louis Agassiz, Johannes Peter Müller, and Wilhelm Bernhard Rudolph Hadrian Dunker.
Karl Theodor Ernst von Siebold, Sven Lovén, Alcide Charles Victor Dessalines d’Orbigny, Rudolf Albert von Koelliker, Michael Sars, and Henrik Nikolaj Krøyer. These names appear on CD’s list of presentation copies for ‘Recent Balanidæ’ (MS attached to CD’s copy of Living Cirripedia (1854) in the Cambridge University Library). They were subsequently deleted and only some of the names reinstated: the following names were added, presumably upon the advice of Huxley: Siebold, Jean Louis Armand de Quatrefages, Karl Georg Friedrich Rudolf Leuckart, Koelliker, August David Krohn, and Carl Vogt. CD marked these names with an ‘S’, indicating that copies had been sent.
Huxley’s review (T. H. Huxley 1854a) of the tenth edition of Robert Chambers’s Vestiges of the natural history of creation ([Chambers] 1853). In 1887, Huxley, remembering how the book set him against evolution, referred to this piece as ‘the only review I ever have qualms of conscience about, on the ground of needless savagery’ (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 168).
The ‘great Professor’ is Richard Owen. For Owen’s generally favourable opinion of Vestiges, see A. Desmond 1982, pp. 31–3, and Richards 1987.
This, too, refers to Richard Owen.
Huxley, addressing the theory of progression in Vestiges, which drew on Louis Agassiz’s study of palaeozoic fishes, referred to Agassiz as ‘the great investigator of these animals, whose lively fancy has done at least as much harm to natural science as his genius has assisted its progress’ (T. H. Huxley 1854a, p. 432). CD refers to Agassiz’s view that the fossil sequence of the palaeontological record is a historical representation of the stages in the embryological development of the four main branches of the animal kingdom. See the reference to ‘Agassiz’s embryonic fish’ in letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 September [1854], and in Origin, p. 338.


[Chambers, Robert]. 1853b. Vestiges of the natural history of creation. 10th ed. London.

Desmond, Adrian. 1982. Archetypes and ancestors: palaeontology in Victorian London, 1850–1875. London: Blond & Briggs.

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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Second Living Cirripedia volume published. Asks THH’s advice on presentation copies for continental naturalists.

THH’s review of Vestiges of creation in [Br. & Foreign Med.-Chir. Rev. 13 (1854)]. CD is almost as unorthodox on species as the author of Vestiges, but hopes not quite so unphilosophical.

Hopes L. Agassiz was sounder on embryological stages than THH thinks.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 8)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1587,” accessed on 24 September 2023,

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