skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Dwight Dana   11 November [1859]

Down Bromley Kent [Ilkley]

Nov. 11th

My dear Sir.

I have sent you a copy of my Book (as yet only an abstract) on the Origin of species. I know too well that the conclusion, at which I have arrived, will horrify you, but you will, I believe & hope, give me credit for at least an honest search after the truth.1 I hope that you will read my Book, straight through; otherwise from the great condensation it will be unintelligible. Do not, I pray, think me so presumptuous as to hope to convert you; but if you can spare time to read it with care, & will then do what is far more important, keep the subject under my point of view for some little time occasionally before your mind, I have hopes that you will agree that more can be said in favour of the mutability of species, than is at first apparent.2 It took me many long years before I wholly gave up the common view of the separate creation of each species.

Believe me, with sincere respect & with cordial thanks for the many acts of scientific kindness which I have received from you, | My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


CD had corresponded with Dana, professor of geology at Yale University, since 1849. They had common interests in invertebrate zoology and the formation of coral reefs (see particularly Correspondence vols. 5 and 6). Dana had recently published his belief in the fixity of species (Dana 1857).
Ill health prevented Dana from reading Origin immediately (see letter to J. D. Dana, 30 December [1859]). Subsequent correspondence reveals that Dana was unable to read the book until 1862 (Calendar no. 3845; see also Gilman 1899, p. 311).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

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

Dana, James Dwight. 1857. Thoughts on species. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 24: 305–16.

Gilman, Daniel C. 1899. The life of James Dwight Dana. New York and London: Harper and Brothers.

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.


Has sent JDD a copy of Origin; knows it will horrify him, but hopes JDD will credit him with an honest search for truth. Believes that JDD may come to think there is more to be said "in favour of mutability of species than is at first appreciated".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Dwight Dana
Sent from
Ilkley Down letterhead
Source of text
Yale University Library: Manuscripts and Archives (Dana Family Papers (MS 164) Series 1, Box 2, folder 44)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2516,” accessed on 8 December 2023,

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