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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   24 [November 1859]1

Ilkley Wells House | Otley Yorkshire


My dear Lyell

Again I have to thank you for a most valuable lot of criticisms in a letter dated 22d.—2

This morning I heard, also, from Murray that he sold whole Edition the first day to the trade. He wants new Edition instantly, & this utterly confounds me. Now under water-cure with all nervous power directed to the skin, I cannot possibly do head-work, & I must make only actually necessary corrections. But I will as far as I can without my M.S. take advantage of your suggestions. I must not attempt much.

Will you send me one line to say whether I must strike out about the Secondary Whales: it goes to my heart.3 About Rattle-snake look to my Journal under Trigonocephalus & you will see probable origin of rattle, & generally in transitions it is the premier pas qui coute.—4

Madame Belloc wants to translate my Book into French:5 I have offered to look over proofs for scientific errors. Did you ever hear of her? I believe Murray has agreed at my urgent advice; but I fear I may have been rash & premature. Quatrefages has written to me, saying he agrees largely with my views— He is excellent naturalist.—6 I am pressed for time. Will you give me one line about the Whales? Again thank you for never-tiring advice & assistance: I do in truth reverence your unselfish & pure love of truth.

My dear Lyell | Ever yours | C. Darwin

Erasmus says about my Book “In fact the a priori reasoning is so entirely satisfactory to me, that if the facts wont fit in, why so much the worse for the facts is my feeling”.!7


Dated by the relationship to the letter to John Murray, 24 November [1859].
See letter to Charles Lyell, 20 September [1859], in which CD mentioned that it was too late to correct a statement in Origin, pp. 303–4, about the existence of whale fossils in Secondary formations. The example was deleted from subsequent editions (Peckham ed. 1959, p. 509).
See letter from Charles Lyell, [22 November 1859]. In Journal of researches, p. 114, CD described a snake, intermediate between the viper and rattlesnake, that vibrates the tip of its tail against dry grass and brushwood, making a sound that could be heard six feet away.
The letter from Jean Louis Armand de Quatrefages de Bréau has not been found. For CD’s reply, see letter to J. L. A. de Quatrefages de Bréau, 5 December [1859].
See letter from E. A. Darwin, 23 November [1859]. The postscript was written on a separate slip of paper and enclosed with the letter.


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.


Sales of Origin.

Discusses revisions for second edition. Mentions possible French translation.

Views of Quatrefages [de Bréau].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.178)
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2547,” accessed on 24 May 2024,

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