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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   [5 December 1859]1



My dear Huxley

I must thank you for your extremely kind notice of my Book in Macmillans—2 No one could receive a more delightful & honourable compliment.— I had not heard of your Lecture, owing to my retired life:3 you attribute much too much to me from our mutual friendship.— You have explained my leading idea with admirable clearness.4 What a gift you have of writing (or more properly) thinking clearly.—

It seems to me that the turning point on the reception of theory of N. selection will be whether or not it explains the recognised laws of palæontology, Geograph. Distrib—Classification Homologies &c &c— Those, like Crawfurd in Examiner, who have never troubled themselves on such points will reject it.5

I leave this place very early on Wednesday & return home—

I am run short of paper.—

Yours most truly | C. Darwin

On rereading your last note, after mine was despatched, it has occurred to me that I perhaps mistook your intentions when I said that the best way of under-standing domestic varieties was to take up some one branch, go to Shows &c.6 Probably you merely wanted to get some general idea from original sources; & that I still think you will find very difficult.


The Monday before CD left Ilkley (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Huxley’s review of Origin was published in the December issue of Macmillan’s Magazine. Huxley wrote that ‘it has long been my privilege to enjoy Mr. Darwin’s friendship, and to profit by corresponding with him, and by, to some extent, becoming acquainted with the workings of his singularly original and well-stored mind.’ (T. H. Huxley 1859b, p. 146). A copy of the review is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The opening pages of Huxley’s article summarise contemporary knowledge of the history of the earth and of life provided by geological and palaeontological evidence. This was drawn, as he noted, from his lecture of 3 June 1859 at the Royal Institution of Great Britain entitled ‘On the persistent types of animal life’ (T. H. Huxley 1859a).
Huxley focused his remarks on explaining the tenets of CD’s theory of natural selection, ‘upon which his whole theory must stand or fall’ (T. H. Huxley 1859b, p. 147).
Huxley’s letter has not been found, but see letter to T. H. Huxley, 27 November [1859].


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.


Thanks for THH’s review of Origin in Macmillan’s Magazine ["Time and life: Mr Darwin’s Origin of Species", 1 (1859–60): 142–8]. Reception of natural selection will depend on whether it explains the recognised laws in the several fields of natural history.

Domestic variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 78)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2572,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

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