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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Leonard Jenyns   1 April [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

April 1st

My dear Jenyns

I was heartily glad to receive your note & receive some news of you.— I thank you very sincerely for your present:2 it seems to me exactly what I have long wished to read (& it is a most useful book to have as reference); namely a general account of the weather. Of the more purely scientific aspect of the work, I am utterly incapable of judging, for it is years since I attended in the least degree to the subject. But the weather, as weather always interests me, & I daily draw a line on ruled paper to show movement of Barometer.

I have only read a score or so of pages yet; nor shall I be able to finish it for some time, for I have two borrowed Books in hand, which must be finished first.3 Owing, also, to my continued weak health, I am able after my mornings work to do extraordinary little; the least attention to anything quite upsetting me. If I have anything to say, beyond general approbation, which I am sure from what little I have seen, it will have from me, it will be a pleasure to me to write.

You enquire about my family I have now six Boys!! & two girls; & it is the great drawback to my happiness, that they are not very robust; some of them seem to have inherited my detestable constitution.—

I have myself been for the last two years & suppose I shall be two more, very hard, (too hard) at work on my species Book, getting it ready for press. By the way I lately found some of your Observations very useful to me.4 You ask what my Book is about, I fear it is almost de rebus omnibus: my attempt is to look at all facts in Nat. Hist & Geology under the two points of view,—has each species been created independently or have species, like varieties, descended from other species? And the upshot is, that I have become dreadfully heteredox about the immutability of species.—5 I have attended especially to Pigeons & kept all the breeds alive, as the best type of variation under domestication, which I believe throws the greatest light on variation in a state of nature. I am sure I have now given you a long prose about my doings, & most heartily do I wish that my doings were done.—

I hope your own health is pretty good: I sincerely sympathise with you in Mrs. Jenyns being an invalid.6

Farewell, dear Jenyns; I often remember the pleasant hours which I have spent with you at Bottisham or rather Swaffham.7 Believe me | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


Dated by the reference to Jenyns 1858.
Jenyns had sent CD a copy of Jenyns 1858, which is in the Darwin Library–Down House.
One of the borrowed books was the first volume of Buckle 1857–61. According to the letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 April [1858], CD had borrowed this work from the circulating library of Charles Edward Mudie.
Several of Jenyns’s observations on animal behaviour, published in Jenyns 1846, were cited by CD in his chapter on the ‘Mental powers and the instincts of animals’ (Natural selection, pp. 472, 508, and 524). CD recorded having completed this chapter on 9 March 1858 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
CD had told Jenyns of his belief in transmutation in a letter written in 1844 (Correspondence vol. 3, letter to Leonard Jenyns, 12 October [1844]). Jenyns was also interested in the species question and had delivered a paper on the subject at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1856 (Jenyns 1856).
Jenyns and his wife Jane had settled near Bath in 1850 after Benjamin Collins Brodie recommended that she move from Cambridgeshire. She died in 1860. See Blomefield 1889, p. 18.
Jenyns had been vicar of Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire, until 1849. Bottisham Hall, also in Cambridgeshire, was the Jenyns family residence. Jenyns and CD became friends during CD’s undergraduate years at Cambridge (see Correspondence vol. 1).


Buckle, Henry Thomas. 1857–61. History of civilization in England. 2 vols. London: John W. Parker & Son.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Jenyns, Leonard. 1846. Observations in natural history: with an introduction on habits of observing, as connected with the study of that science. Also a calendar of periodic phenomena in natural history; with remarks on the importance of such registers. London: John Van Voorst.

Jenyns, Leonard. 1856. On the variation of species. Report of the 26th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Cheltenham, Transactions of the sections, pp. 101–5. [vols. 6,7,8]

Jenyns, Leonard. 1858. Observations in meteorology. London. [vols. 3,7]

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.


Thanks LJ for his book [Observations in meteorology (1858)].

CD has been working on his species book [Natural selection].

Has become dreadfully heterodox on immutability of species.

His work on pigeons: variation under domestication throws the greatest light on variation in a state of nature.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Leonard Jenyns/Leonard Blomefield
Sent from
Source of text
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2251,” accessed on 13 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7