skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Armand de Quatrefages   5 December [1859]

Down Bromley Kent [Ilkley]

Dec. 5th

Dear Sir

Had I not been much engaged lately, I should have thanked you earlier for your very kind letter of the 19th Novr.—1 I am quite delighted that we agree to some extent in our conclusions with respect to the mutability of species.2 I shall anxiously read your Cours, if published.—3 Pray permit me to be boastful about my book, but for a reason which you will presently see. Sir C. Lyell, who has been our chief maintainer of the immutability of species, has become an entire convert; as is Hooker, our best & most philosophical Botanist; as is Carpenter, an excellent physiologist, & as is Huxley; & I could name several other names. These naturalists intend proclaiming their full acceptance of my views. The whole of the 1st. Edit (1250 copies) was sold on first day; & my publisher is now printing 3000 more copies.— Madame Belloc having heard of my work from her English friends, wished to translate it into French; but on reading it, she finds it too scientific.4 Now this has put it into my head, what an immense advantage it would be, if it were translated. It would then be known to the world. I wish for this far more, (if I know myself) for the sake of the subject, than for my own reputation. Judging from English sale, I think it would answer to a publisher or translator; especially if any distinguished naturalists would look over the proof-sheets, & perhaps append a few notes of refutation or confirmation, & allow his name to appear on title-page.—

I know that you are immersed in original researches, & believe me that I do not presume to think of you; but it has occurred to me that perhaps your kindness & interest in subject would induce you to mention my book to any publisher or translator or eminent naturalist, who might be willing to act as Editor. My publisher has secured the right of translation, which I believe lasts for 2 or 3 months. I would of course send copy of the 2d & corrected Edition to any translator. Will you have the extreme kindness to consider this subject; & if in your power confer on me this great & lasting obligation.—5 I beg you not to waste your valuable time in answering this note, unless you have anything to communicate.

With the highest respect & with my best thanks, I beg leave to remain Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin


Quatrefages de Bréau’s letter has not been found.
Quatrefages de Bréau, a disciple of Henri Milne-Edwards, held a view of transformism based on the developmental processes of organisms (see Appel 1987, pp. 234 and 236). Nevertheless, he found it impossible to accept CD’s views. Copies of some of Quatrefages de Bréau’s books, including those in which he developed his ideas of the distinctness of man from the animal world and the single origin of the human races (Quatrefages de Bréau 1861 and 1862), are in the Darwin Library--CUL.
Quatrefages de Bréau was appointed professor of the natural history of man at the Muséum d'histoire naturelle in 1855 and delivered his first course of lectures on anthropological subjects in 1856. The course of lectures in which he discussed the species question was published in 1868 under the title ‘La théorie de l'espèce en géologie et en botanique avec ses applications à l'espèce et aux races humaines’ (Revue des cours scientifiques de la France et de l'étranger 5 (1868)).
Louise Swanton Belloc’s letter has not been found. In 1860, she did prepare a French translation of a section of CD’s Journal of researches, the first of CD’s works to be translated into French (Freeman 1977, p. 49).
For CD’s further correspondence with Quatrefages de Bréau concerning a French translation of Origin, see Correspondence vol. 8, letters to J. L. A. de Quatrefages de Bréau, 21 January [1860] and 30 March [1860]. The first French translation of Origin was eventually prepared by Clémence Auguste Royer and published in 1862 (Freeman 1977, p. 102). This was after CD’s negotiations with Pierre Theodore Alfred Talandier, master of French at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, broke down after Talandier failed to secure a publisher. See Correspondence vol. 8, letters to Edward Cresy, 15 January [1860] and 20 January [1860], and letter to John Murray, 23 [January 1860].


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 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.


Mentions English scientists who support mutability of species.

Asks QdeB whether he could help locate a French translator and publisher.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Jean Louis Armand (Armand de Quatrefages) Quatrefages de Bréau
Sent from
Ilkley Down letterhead
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.183)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2571,” accessed on 28 June 2022,

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