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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   10 November [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 10th

My dear Lyell

I am writing to you in order to answer Lady Lyells note to Emma,—as she find writing or indeed doing anything whatever a considerable exertion.

We have been most sincerely grieved to hear such very indifferent accounts of Mrs. Horner:2 paradoxical as it may appear, I think, illness after so many years of good health, seems all the more to be deplored.— I had hoped to have come to London this week, & I had calculated on the very great pleasure of seeing you & Lady Lyell; but several combined circumstances will stop me; & chiefly Emma’s state. I do not suppose I shall see you till January.—

Last week my Aunt, Mrs. Wedgwood, expired here quite suddenly & easily.;—a great relief to her, as her life had become a heavy burthen to her.—3

I wish I could see you sooner than I shall, for I shd. like to hear what you have been about.— I suppose the Madeira paper will soon be sent in.—4

I am working very steadily at my big Book;—I have found it quite impossible to publish any preliminary essay or sketch; but am doing my work as complete as my present materials allow, without waiting to perfect them. And this much acceleration I owe to you.5

I know you like all cases of negative geological evidence being upset. I fancied that I was a most unwilling believer in negative evidence; but yet such negative evidence did seem to me so strong that in my Fossil Lepadidæ I have stated, giving reasons, that I did not believe there could have existed any Sessile Cirripedes during the Secondary ages. Now the other day Bosquet of Maestricht sends me a perfect drawing of a perfect Chthamalus, (a recent genus) from the Chalk! Indeed it is stretching a point to make it specifically distinct from our living British Species.— It is a genus not hitherto found in any Tertiary bed.6

Farewell | Yours most truly | C. Darwin


Dated by the reference to the death of Sarah Elizabeth (Sarah) Wedgwood (see n. 3, below).
Anne Susan Horner, Charles Lyell’s mother-in-law.
Sarah Wedgwood died on 6 November 1856 (Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 161). She had broken her hip in an accident in September (see letter to W. D. Fox, 3 October [1856]).
Lyell had been working for several years on an analysis of the volcanic geology of Madeira and intended to publish a paper in collaboration with Georg Hartung (see K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 232, 282). The paper was eventually abandoned, but Hartung later published most of their results (Hartung 1864).
Lyell had urged CD to publish a short sketch of his theory in order to establish his priority (letter from Charles Lyell, 1–2 May 1856).
See letter to J. A. H. de Bosquet, 9 September [1856].


Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.

Hartung, Georg. 1864. Geologische Beschreibung der Inseln Madeira und Porto Santo. Leipzig: W. Engelmann.


Illnesses of Mrs Horner and Emma Darwin.

Death of Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood.

Mentions work on his "Big Book" [Natural selection].

Remarks on J. A. H. de Bosquet’s discovery of a Chthamalus in the Chalk.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.140)
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1984,” accessed on 25 June 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6