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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Lubbock   8 March [1859]1

Down Bromley Kent

March 8th

Dear Lubbock

You were so kind as to say that you would help me.—2

Can you give me any case of an insect, which apparently does not undergo a metamorphosis,—which does not pass through the vermiform stage. I think Dufour or some one states in the pupiparous Diptera or some other Diptera, that at earliest stage at which anything can be discovered, the embryo resembles the adult.—3 This is the case with Arachnidæ, but I want such a case in Insecta, merely to show that the metamorphic stages may be lost.4

By the way how is it in Aphis; is not the young, as soon as anything can be seen, an Aphis & nothing but an Aphis, whether produced by true or gemmiferous generation? This has only this moment occurred to me, & would suffice if true.—but the Dipterous case wd. be better. Will you let me have a line in answer.—

I hope London has answered to you & Mrs. Lubbock.—5

We hear that the Railway is to come to Farnborough: is this true?—6

Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin


Dated by Lubbock’s reply (letter from John Lubbock, 15 March 1859).
See letter from John Lubbock, 8 February 1859, which is now incomplete.
A reference to Léon Jean Marie Dufour’s work on dipteran embryology (Dufour 1845). CD had made notes on this paper in relation to his chapter on the laws of variation (see Natural selection,pp. 573–4). See also letter to John Lubbock, 16 [March 1859].
CD did not use Diptera to illustrate his point about the loss of metamorphic stages in insects but cited Aphis instead (Origin, p. 442). See letter from John Lubbock, 15 March 1859, and letters to John Lubbock, 16 [March 1859] and 21 [March 1859].
The Mid-Kent Railway Company had financed a short railway extension from Beckenham to Lewisham, along what was known as the Farnborough extension. The line had opened for business in 1857, but Farnborough never became a station on it. In 1859, there was a movement to finance a further extension from the Crystal Palace station, near Penge, to Norwood, which may have included Farnborough. The line was not constructed due to financial disagreement with the Brighton Railway Company in 1860. See Bradshaw’s shareholders’ guide, railway manual, and directory 1859 and 1860. John William Lubbock, John Lubbock’s father was director of the Mid-Kent Railway and CD was a major debenture holder (see Correspondence vol. 6).


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

Dufour, Léon. 1845. Études anatomiques et physiologiques sur les insectes diptères de la famille des Pupipares. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Zoologie) 3d ser. 3: 49– 95.

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.


Wants examples of insects (especially Diptera) in which embryo resembles adult, to show that the metamorphic stages may be lost.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Lubbock, 4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 263: 29 (EH 88206478)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2426,” accessed on 18 September 2023,

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