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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   14 November [1859]

Wells Terrace | Ilkley, Otley | Yorkshire

Nov. 14th

My dear Sir

I have this morning received a message from Mrs. Butler, (who was a Miss Edgeworth)1 that Madame Belloc Rue Ecole de Medicine (5.) Paris wishes to translate my Book on Species into French.—2 She translated some of Miss Edgeworths novels very well, & some of Sismondi’s works.3 She writes in Revue des deux mondes.4 All this sounds very well; my only doubt is whether she is scientific enough. I am, also, excessively puzzled to think how she could have heard of my Book.— I presume that she wd. require to read it before agreeing to translate. I am extremely anxious for the subject sake (& God knows not for mere fame) to have my Book translated; & indirectly its being known abroad will do good to English Sale.— If it depended on me I shd. agree without payment & instantly send copy & only beg that she would get some scientific man to look over the Translation. But I suppose the affair rests in your hands. If you think favourably, will you at once communicate with her (for she begs for immediate answer) & let me hear result. It will save much time if you will write direct. But please apologise for my not writing direct & you may truly say I am much out of health. You might say that though I am a very poor French scholar, I could detect any scientific mistake, & would read over French proofs. Please act as you think fit, remembering how earnestly I wish my views to be known & discussed.

I trust you will excuse this trouble, as I could not possibly write to her, not knowing what power I have.

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

I have heard that you have distributed copies in the country; & I hope to Foreigners & especially the 4 copies to Dr. Hooker.— Admiral FitzRoy writes that he has not received his copy, so I suppose for some reason you have not distributed the London copies as yet.—5 I hope you will soon.—

I wish there was any chance of German Translation when you see Sir C. Lyell will you kindly consult him. My Journal was translated: but Translator is dead.—6


Harriet Butler, née Edgeworth, was the sister-in-law of Mary Butler, whom CD had met at Moor Park and who had been at Ilkley Wells until the end of October 1859. See letter to Mary Butler,20 February [1859].
Louise Swanton Belloc was an Irish-born French writer who translated a large number of works into French. She was a close friend of Harriet Butler and Maria Edgeworth (see Edgeworth ed. 1867,3: 259, 262). In the end, she did not translate Origin (see letter to J. L. A. de Quatrefages de Bréau,5 December [1859]).
Louise Belloc translated into French and edited several of Maria Edgeworth’s educational works; her translations of Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi’s works into English were unattributed.
Revue des deux mondes was the leading French literary and critical journal.
Robert FitzRoy, former captain of the Beagle, had been promoted to the rank of rear-admiral in 1857. He was chief of the meteorological department of the Board of Trade in 1859.
Ernst Dieffenbach had died in 1855. He translated CD’s Journal of researches into German in 1843 (see Supplement, letter to Ernst Dieffenbach, 4 July [1843], and Correspondence vol. 2.


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

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

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.


Mme Belloc wishes to translate CD’s book on species into French. Asks JM to communicate with her. CD anxious to have his views known and discussed. Wishes there could be a German translation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42152 ff.54–56)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2531,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

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