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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   13 April [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 13th

My dear Lyell

I have been particularly glad to see Wollaston’s letter.2 The news did not require any breaking to me; for though as a general rule I am much opposed to the Forbesian continental extensions, I have no objection whatever to its being proved in some cases. Not that I can admit that W. has by any means proved it; nor, I think, can anyone else, till we know something of the means of distribution of insects.—3 But the close similarity or identity of the two Faunas is certainly very interesting.— I am extremely glad to hear that your Madeira paper is making progress; & I shall be most curious to see. I shd. be infinitely obliged for a separate copy, whenever printed.—4

My health has been very poor of late, & I am going in a week’s time for a fortnight of hydropathy & rest.—5 My everlasting species-Book quite overwhelms me with work— It is beyond my powers, but I hope to live to finish it.—

Farewell | My dear Lyell | Ever yours | C. Darwin


Dated by the reference to CD’s intention to visit a hydropathic establishment ‘in a week’s time’ (see n. 5, below).
The letter from Thomas Vernon Wollaston to Lyell has not been found, but its subject matter may be inferred from a passage in the introduction to Wollaston 1857. Having stated that the Coleoptera of Porto Santo and the Dezertas had more species in common than they did with Madeira as a whole, Wollaston wrote (Wollaston 1857, p. xv): And, without attempting to solve a geological problem, upon which Sir Charles Lyell will probably be able in a short time to throw considerable light, or to add any real evidence either in favour or against the existence of an ancient connective land; it does certainly appear to me, judging simply from Coleopterous data, as if the insect-population had possessed wonderful facilities, at some remote period, of migrating to and fro (as though along a slightly elevated mountain-ridge) between Porto Santo and the Dezertas, and in like manner … between the latter rocks and the eastern extremity of Madeira.
Both Lyell and Wollaston supported the idea of specific centres of creation and the land-bridge doctrine as an explanation for geographical distribution. See letters to Charles Lyell, 16 [June 1856] and 25 June [1856], and letters from Charles Lyell, 17 June 1856, and from T. V. Wollaston, [27 June 1856].
CD left for Edward Wickstead Lane’s hydropathic establishment at Moor Park, Surrey, on 22 April and returned to Down on 6 May 1857 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).


Wollaston, Thomas Vernon. 1857. Catalogue of the coleopterous insects of Madeira in the collection of the British Museum. London: By order of the Trustees.


CD returns a letter from Wollaston.

Although opposed to the Forbesian doctrine [of continental extension] as a general rule, CD would have no objection to its being proved in some cases. Does not think Wollaston has proved it; nor can anyone until more is known about the means of distribution of insects – but the identity of the two faunas is certainly interesting.

His health is very poor and his "everlasting species-Book" quite overwhelms him with work. It is beyond his powers, but he hopes to live to finish it.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
The University of Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections (Gen.109/702)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2077,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

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