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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Henry Huxley   1 January [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

Jan 1st

My dear Huxley

I write one line merely to thank you for your pleasant note & to say that I will keep your secret.2 I will shake my head as mysteriously as Ld. Burleigh.—3 Several persons have asked me who wrote that “most remarkable article” in the Times. As a cat may look at a king, so I have said that I strongly suspected you.—   Mrs Hooker (do not repeat this) was so sharp that the first sentence revealed to her the authorship.4 The Lubbocks Father & Son (God save the mark) thought it was Owen’s!!!5 You may rely on it that it has made deep impression, & I am heartily glad that the subject & I owe you this further obligation. But for God’s sake take care of your health: remember that the Brain takes years to rest whilst the muscles take only hours.— There is poor Dana to whom I used to preach by letter writes to me that my prophecies are come true:6 he is in Florence quite done up, can read nothing & write nothing & cannot talk for half-an-hour

I noticed the “naughty sentence about Owen, though my wife saw its bearing first.—7

Farewell you best & worst of men.— Most sincerely Yours | C. Darwin

That sentence about the Bird & the Fish dinners charmed us.—8

Lyell wrote me style like yours.—9

Have you seen the slashing article of Dec. 26th in Daily News against my stealing from my “Master”, the Author of Vestiges.—10


The date is given by the reference to Huxley’s anonymous review of Origin in The Times, 26 December 1859, p. 8 ([T. H. Huxley] 1859a).
Huxley had written the review of Origin as a favour to Samuel Lucas of The Times, who had been assigned to review the work but felt unqualified to do so. See Correspondence vol. 7, letter to T. H. Huxley, 28 December [1859], n. 4, and LL 2: 255.
A character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Critic, whose brief role consists solely of silently shaking his head (act I, scene I).
Frances Harriet Hooker, the wife of Joseph Dalton Hooker, was a close family friend of both the Darwins and the Huxleys. CD’s allusion is to the fact that the first two paragraphs of the review were actually written by Lucas (see LL 2: 255).
John William Lubbock and his son John Lubbock were CD’s neighbours. Richard Owen had expressed his willingness to consider CD’s ‘heterodox’ views on species change in a letter thanking CD for a presentation copy of Origin. He had also given CD further reason to believe he was favourably disposed to the theory when the two met in London early in December 1859. See Correspondence vol. 7, letter from Richard Owen, 12 November 1859, and letter to Charles Lyell, [10 December 1859].
James Dwight Dana, with whom CD had long corresponded, had suffered a mental collapse in 1859 and travelled to Italy to convalesce. See Correspondence vol. 7, letters to Charles Lyell, 29 [December 1859], and to JD. Dana, 30 December [1859]. CD had previously warned Dana that overwork might damage his health (Correspondence vol. 7, Supplement, letter to J. D. Dana, 15 June [1851]).
The sentence reads: ‘no one has asserted the incompetence of the doctrine of final causes, in its application to physiology and anatomy, more strongly than our own eminent anatomist, Professor Owen’ ([T. H. Huxley] 1859a). Huxley had for several years been conducting a public, verbal attack on Owen’s scientific methodology. See Correspondence vols. 6 and 7.
Huxley discussed Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet de Lamarck’s explanation of the development of the long neck of the heron. Lamarck believed it resulted from the long-continued efforts of short-necked birds to catch fish without getting themselves wet. Huxley wryly commented: ‘The bird, in our example, would surely have renounced fish dinners long before it had produced the least effect on leg or neck’ ([T. H. Huxley] 1859a).
The letter from Charles Lyell has not been found.
CD refers to the Daily News, 26 December 1859, p. 2. He was particularly anxious to distance his theory from the discredited views expressed in Vestiges of the natural history of creation ([Chambers] 1844). See Correspondence vol. 3, letters to J. D. Hooker, [7 January 1845] and [10 September 1845].


[Chambers, Robert.] 1844. Vestiges of the natural history of creation. London: John Churchill.

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

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

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.


Will keep THH’s secret [of authorship of Times review of Origin]. It has made deep impression.

J. D. Dana’s illness.

Daily News accuses him of plagiarising Vestiges.

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: 94)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2633,” accessed on 16 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8