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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   18 July [1858]

King’s Head Hotel | Sandown | Isle of Wight

July 18th

My dear Lyell

I write merely to thank you for the abstract of the Etna paper.1 It seems to me a very grand contribution to our volcanic knowlede. Certainly I never expected to see E. de B. theory of slopes so completely upset.2 He must have picked out favourable cases for measurement. And such an array of facts he gives!— You have scotched & will see die, I now think, the Crater of Elevation Theory. But what vitality there is in a plausible theory!

We are established here for ten days & then go on to Shanklin which seems more amusing to one, like myself, who cannot walk— We hope much that the sea may do Etty & Lenny good. And if it does our expedition will answer, but not otherwise.

I have never half thanked you for all the extraordinary trouble & kindness you showed me about Wallace’s affair. Hooker told me what was done at Linn. Socy & I am far more than satisifed;3 & I do not think that Wallace can think my conduct unfair, in allowing you & Hooker to do whatever you thought fair.

I certainly was a little annoyed to lose all priority, but had resigned myself to my fate. I am going to prepare a longer abstract; but it is really impossible to do justice to the subject, except by giving the facts on which each conclusion is grounded & that will of course be absolutely impossible.

Your name & Hooker’s name appearing as in anyway the least interested in my work, will, I am certain have the most important bearing in leading people to consider the subject without prejudice.— I look at this as so very important that I am almost glad of Wallace’s paper for having led to this.

My dear Lyell | Yours most gratefully | Ch. Darwin


CD refers to the abstract of C. Lyell 1858 (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 9 (1857–9): 248). Lyell read this paper at a meeting of the Royal Society on 10 June 1858.
Jean Baptiste Armand Louis Léonce Élie de Beaumont believed that lava would not consolidate if it flowed down a slope at an angle greater than three degrees. He maintained that volcanic cones were formed by an eruption breaking through the horizontal layers of lava and elevating them to form the sides. See Correspondence vols. 3 and 4, and vol. 6, letter to Charles Lyell, 21 April [1856].


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

Lyell, Charles. 1858. On the structure of lavas which have consolidated on steep slopes; with remarks on the mode of origin of Mount Etna, and on the theory of ‘craters of elevation’. [Read 10 June 1858.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 148: 703–86.


Thanks for abstract of Etna paper [Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 148 (1858): 703–86]. Never expected to see Élie de Beaumont’s theory ["craters of elevation"] so completely upset. "He must have picked out favourable cases for measurement."

More than satisfied by what was done at Linnean Society [joint reading of CD’s and Wallace’s papers: "Tendency of species to form varieties", Collected papers 2: 3–19]. Intends to prepare longer abstract.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.155)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2309,” accessed on 28 May 2024,

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