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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Carpenter   3 December [1859]

Ilkley Wells House | Otley Yorkshire

Dec 3.

My dear Carpenter

I am perfectly delighted at your letter.1 It is a great thing to have got a great physiologist on our side. I say “our” for we are now a good & compact body of really good men & mostly not old men.— In the long run we shall conquer. I do not like being abused but I feel that I can now bear it; &, as I told Lyell, I am well convinced that it is the first offender who reaps the rich harvest of abuse.— You have done me an essential kindness in checking the odium theologicum in the E.R.— It much pains all one’s female relations & injures the cause.—2

I look at it as immaterial whether we go quite the same lengths; & I suspect, judging from myself, that you will go further, by thinking of a population of forms like Ornithorhynchus & by thinking of the common homological & embryological structure of the several Vertebrate orders. But this is immaterial; I quite agree that the principle is everything. In my fuller M.S. I have discussed a good many instincts; but there will surely be more unfilled gaps here than with corporeal structure; for we have no fossil instincts & know scarcely any except of European animals.— When I reflect how very slowly I came round myself, I am in truth astonished at the candour shown by Lyell, Hooker, Huxley & yourself. In my opinion it is grand. I thank you cordially for taking the trouble of writing a Review for the National:3 God knows I shall have few enough in any degree favourable.—

I am very much obliged for your kind invitation; but I am always knocked up by a Journey & must sleep at my Brothers.— I go to London next Wednesday & have agreed to call on Lyell at 10 oclock on Thursday morning & shall stay there about one hour, or hour & 12. Are you free on Thursday morning from 1112 to 12 oclock? if so, I would call on you. But you must not think of staying in on my account, for I am so subject to headach, that I am never certain of my movements. But I would assuredly come, if possible. If you cannot have me, will you send a line to “57 Queen Anne St. (W.)”—4 if I do not hear I will understand that you will be at home, & come I will if I can.— I must return home that afternoon.—

Yours most sincerely obliged | C. Darwin


Carpenter’s letter has not been located.
Carpenter had probably advised Henry Reeve, editor of the Edinburgh Review, on appropriate reviewers for Origin. CD probably had in mind Adam Sedgwick’s severe review of Vestiges of creation in the Edinburgh Review ([Sedgwick] 1845), particularly after having received Sedgwick’s response to Origin in his letter of 24 November 1859. Henrietta Darwin later wrote that Emma Darwin would not show her ‘Professor Sedgwick’s horrified reprobation’ of Origin (Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 172). See also letter to C. S. Wedgwood, [after 21 November 1859].
Carpenter’s review appeared in National Review 10 (1860): 188–214.
The address of Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house in London.


Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.

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.

[Sedgwick, Adam.] 1845. Vestiges of the natural history of creation. Edinburgh Review 82: 1–85.


Delighted by WBC’s letter about Origin. There is now "a great physiologist on our side". "You have done me an essential kindness in checking the odium theologicum in the E[dinburgh] R[eview] … immaterial whether we go quite the same lengths … the principle is everything."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Benjamin Carpenter
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.6: 3 (EH 88205920)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2568,” accessed on 28 May 2024,

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