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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Phillips   11 November [1859]

Down Brom⁠⟨⁠ley Kent⁠⟩⁠ [Ilkley]

Nov 11th.

My dear Phillips

I have directed Murray to send you a copy of my book on the Origin of Species, which as yet is only an abstract.— I fear that you will be inclined to fulminate awful anathemas against it.1 I assure you that it is the result of far more labour, than is apparent in its present highly condensed state.—

If you have time to read it, let me beg you to read it all straight through, as otherwise it will be unintelligible. Try not to condemn it utterly, till you have finished it & reflected on the recapitulation. Not that I am so foolish as to expect to convert anyone, who has long viewed the subject from an opposite point of view. I remember too well how many long years my own conversion took. The utmost which I hope, is that you may see that more can be said on the side of the mutability of specific forms, than is at first apparent. If indeed your own observations have made you at all sceptical on this subject, then my Book may produce some effect.2 Hooker, whose studies make him, I think, one of the most competent judges in Europe, has completely given up species as immutable creations.

Pray forgive me for troubling you with this note, which does not require any answer & pray believe me | Dear Phillips | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


Phillips was president of the Geological Society in 1859 and had been instrumental earlier in the year in the society’s award of the Wollaston Medal to CD (see letters to John Phillips, 21 January [1859] and 8 February [1859]). He was the senior geologist at Oxford University following William Buckland’s death in 1856.
Phillips’s acknowledgment of CD’s letter has not been found, but CD described his response to Origin as ‘cautious but decidedly, I fear, hostile’ (see the second letter to T. H. Huxley, 25 November [1859]). See also letter to John Phillips, 26 November [1859]. Phillips discussed Origin in his anniversary address to the Geological Society in 1860 (Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 16 (1860): xxxvi).


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.


Sends Origin to JP. Says it is as yet only an abstract. Fears JP will "fulminate anathemas" against it. Asks him to read it all straight through, otherwise it will be unintelligible.

Is not so foolish as to expect to convert anyone. CD remembers how many long years his own conversion took. Hooker "has completely given up species as immutable creatures".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Phillips
Sent from
Ilkley Down letterhead
Source of text
Oxford University Museum of Natural History Archive Collections (John Phillips collection))
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2521,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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