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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   2 September [1859]

Down Bromley Kent

Sept. 2d.—

My dear Lyell

It was very good of you to write about the Flint tools.1 I feel an uncommon idle curiosity on subject, & last night said to Emma how I shd. like to write to you to enquire; but refrained not to give you trouble of answering. I shall look with extreme interest to what you say at Aberdeen: it will be a grand subject for you.2 No one, as far as I have seen, has discussed under what circumstances the beds were deposited. Are the beds like those with angular flints at Greenstreet Green, where Lubbock found Elephant remains, & subsequently head of Musk ox?3 Do you remember telling me that you thought that they were glacial, & afterwards enquiring of Arctic travellers about nature of the beach in those icy regions; & now that musk-ox has been found, the story is complete. I have often told it with striking effect.— What ages Men must have lived on the old icy shores to have lost so many weapons! Esquimaux living on beach & on sea & on ice would be likely to lose more than any other races, & have them embedded. It is a grand case, & I am so glad you have investigated it.—

I am very glad you wish to see my clean sheets; I shd. have offered them, but did not know whether it would bore you; I wrote by this mornings post to Murray to send them.4 Unfortunately I have not got to part which would interest you, I think, most, & which tells most in favour of view: viz Geological Succession— Geographical Distribution, & especially Morphology, Embryology & Rudimentary organs. I will see that the remaining sheets, when printed off, are sent to you. But would you like for me to send last & perfect Revises of the sheets, as I correct them?; if so, send me your address in blank envelope.—

I hope that you will read all, whether dull (specially latter part of Ch. 2.) or not, for I am convinced there is not a sentence which has not bearing on whole argument.— You will find Ch. IV perplexing & unintelligble, without the aid of enclosed queer Diagram, of which I send old & useless proof.—5 I have, as Murray says, corrected so heavily as almost to have rewritten it; but yet I fear it is poorly written. Parts are intricate; & I do not think that even you could make them quite clear. Do not, I beg, be in a hurry in committing yourself, (like so many naturalists) to go a certain length & no further; for I am deeply convinced, that it is absolutely necessary to go whole vast length, or stick to creation of each separate species; I argue this point briefly in the last chapter. Remember that your verdict will probably have more influence than my Book in deciding whether such views as I hold, will be admitted or rejected at present,—in the future I cannot doubt about their admittance, & our posterity will marvel as much about the current belief as we do about fossil-shells having been thought to have been created as we now see them.— But forgive me for running on about my hobby-horse.—

You ask about our healths; I cannot give a very flourishing account of Emma or of some of the children; and for myself I am in a very poor way, & quite worn out, & useless for everything. Immediately my last proof is done in 14 or 20 days; we start for 2 months’ Hydropathy & rest—& perhaps that will make a man of me.—

Give our kindest remembrances to Lady Lyell & my dear Master | Yours affectionately | C. Darwin

I have read some of Hookers Introduction to Australian Flora, & he gives up species in grand style.

I enclose P.S. of letter from Wallace lately received.6


Lyell was president of the geology section at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Aberdeen, from 14 to 21 September 1859. He discussed the new finds relating to ‘antediluvian’ man and the antiquity of the human race in his address, which was reported in Athenæum, 24 September 1859, pp. 403–4. Lyell had visited the sites of some of the finds at Denise, Abbeville, and Amiens in the summer of 1859. In his speech, he confirmed the discoveries of worked flints in deposits underlying strata containing the bones of reindeer.
The remains of a fossilised musk-ox discovered by John Lubbock were described in R. Owen 1856 (see Hutchinson 1914, 1: 37–9, and Correspondence vol. 5, letter to John Lubbock, 19 [July 1855]). Greenstreet Green (or Grinstead Green) is a village close to Farnborough, Kent.
The diagram, which illustrates the divergence of animals and plants through the action of natural selection, is in Origin, between pp. 116 and 117.
CD refers to the letter from Alfred Russel Wallace that accompanied Wallace’s manuscript on geographical distribution (Wallace 1860). Neither the letter nor the postscript has been found, but see CD’s reply (letter to A. R. Wallace, 9 August 1859).


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

Hutchinson, Horace Gordon. 1914. Life of Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury. 2 vols. London: Macmillan.

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.

Owen, Richard. 1856. Description of a fossil cranium of the musk-buffalo … from the ‘lower-level drift’ at Maidenhead, Berkshire. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 12: 124–31. [Vols. 6,7]

Wallace, Alexander. 1860. Remarks on the occurrence of rarer British Sphingidae. [Read 4 June 1860.] Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 5 (1858–61), Proceedings, pp. 119–20.


CL’s research on flint tools.

Promises to send proof-sheets of Origin. Discusses his view of species.

Ill health of himself and his family.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.167)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2486,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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