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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   31 March [1859]

Down Bromley Kent

March 31st

My dear Sir

I have heard with pleasure from Sir C. Lyell that you are inclined to publish my work on the Origin of Species; but that before deciding & offering any terms you require to see my M.S.—1 My work is divided into 12 chapters, as you will see in appended table at end of this letter2 The Introduction, & 3 first chapters are now in 3 copyists hands; & I hope to have them home in about 10 days. I defy anyone, not familiar with my handwriting & odd arrangements to make out my M.S. till fairly copied, Ch. IV will be ready for copyist in 2 or 3 days. Ch. V–IX are all fully written out, but not finally corrected or copied; & would be very difficult to decipher.— Ch. X is copied & is now in Dr. Hooker’s hands.—3 Ch XI is in copyist Hands. Ch XII, a short one, not even fully written out.—

Now you will see state of work: I could send 3 first chapters well copied in about 10 days, & Ch V–IX in the rough, (but I must retain one Ch. not to be losing time) & Ch. X & XI well copied: but I would advise you to wait till more chapters are well copied.— But, I will do, as far as I can, whatever you please; but the 3 first chapters & short Introduction cannot be sent till I get them back from copyists. At roughest calculation I think my M.S will make about 500 pages of type & size of Lyell’s Elements 1st. Edition.—4

It is the result of more than 20 years work; but as here given, is only a popular abstract of a larger work on the same subject, without references to authorities & without long catalogues of facts on which my conclusions are based. The book ought to be popular with a large body of scientific & semi-scientific readers, as it bears on agriculture & history of our domestic productions & on whole field of Zoology, Botany & Geology.— I have done my best, but whether it will succeed I cannot say— I have been quite surprised at finding how much interested strangers & acquaintances have become with the subject. Only some small portions are at all abstruse.—

I hope to be ready for press early in May & shall then most earnestly wish to print at a rapid rate, for my health is much broken, & I want rest. I may add that I shd have to beg for 100 or 120 copies at Bookseller’s price to give to many persons who have aided me.

Pray excuse the length of this letter. I shall be pleased if you approve of my work, & will undertake its publication.—

Pray believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


Introductory Remarks with briefest outline of whole Book I. Variation under Domestication; or the origin & mode of formation of our domestic Productions II. Variation under Nature (short & dry chapter) III. Struggle for Existence (short & rather interesting Ch) IV. Natural Selection (important: parts rather abstruse) V. Laws of Variation (many curious facts) VI. Difficulties in Transitions of Organs & Beings5 VII. Instinct (interesting chapter) VIII. Hybridism (rather long & rather curious Chapter) IX Geological succession of Beings on this Earth (long chapter)6 X Geographical Distribution of Beings (long Chapter)7 XI. Affinities; Classification: Embryology Rudimentary Organs (important & I think good Ch.)8 XII. Recapitulation & Conclusion (short Chapter)


For the preliminary negotiations between Charles Lyell and John Murray, see letter to Charles Lyell, 28 March [1859].
The work was eventually divided into 14 chapters (see nn. 6 and 7, below).
CD had sent the chapter relating to geographical distribution to Joseph Dalton Hooker for his comments in early March (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 11 March [1859]).
CD refers to C. Lyell 1838. See also letter to Charles Lyell, 28 March [1859]. The first edition of Origin ran to 502 pages.
This chapter title was changed to ‘Difficulties on theory’.
This chapter was subsequently divided into two, entitled ‘On the imperfection of the geological record’ and ‘On the geological succession of organic beings’.
This chapter was also divided into two, entitled ‘Geographical distribution’ and ‘Geographical distribution—continued’.
This chapter title was changed to ‘Mutual affinities of organic beings: morphology: embryology: rudimentary organs’.


Lyell, Charles. 1838. Elements of geology. London: John Murray.

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.


CD has heard from Lyell that JM is inclined to publish his work on the origin of species. Will send some chapters as soon as copyist has finished. Sends list of 12 chapters. It will be a popular abstract of more than 20 years’ work. It ought to be popular with scientific and semi-scientific readers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42153 ff.12–13)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2441,” accessed on 21 May 2024,

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