skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Leonard Jenyns   7 January [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 7th

My dear Jenyns

I am very much obliged for your letter.1 It is of great use & interest to me to know what impression my Book produces on philosophical & instructed minds. I thank you for the kind things which you say; & you go with me much further than I expected.— You will think it presumptuous, but I am convinced, if circumstances lead you to keep the subject in mind, that you will go further. No one has yet cast doubt on my explanation of the subordination of group to group, on homologies, Embryology & Rudimentary organs; & if my explanation of these classes of facts be at all right, whole classes of organic beings must be included in one line of descent.— The imperfection of the geological Record is one of greatest difficulties (by the way, Lyell, who is convert, does not think that I have exaggerated imperfection). During earliest period the record would be most imperfect, & this seems to me sufficiently to account for our not finding intermediate forms between the classes in the same great Kingdoms.—

It was certainly rash in me putting in my belief of probability of all beings having descended from one primordial form; but as this seems yet to me probable, I am not willing to strike it out.—2 Huxley alone supports me in this, & something could be said in its favour.—

With respect to man, I am very far from wishing to obtrude my belief; but I thought it dishonest to quite conceal my opinion.—3 Of course it is open to everyone to believe that man appeared by separate miracle, though I do not myself see the necessity or probability.—

Pray accept my sincere thanks for your kind note. Your going some way with me gives me great confidence that I am not very wrong. For a very long time I halted half-way; but I do not believe that any enquiring mind will rest half-way. People will have to reject all or admit all,—by all I mean only the members of each great Kingdom.—

My dear Jenyns | Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin


See letter from Leonard Jenyns, 4 January 1860, in which Jenyns discussed CD’s theory of the origin of organic life from one primordial form as given in Origin, p. 484. CD did not alter the passage in any substantive way in subsequent editions (Peckham ed. 1959, pp. 752–3).
CD refers to his remark in Origin, p. 488: ‘Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.’ Although CD did not explicitly discuss the evolution of man in Origin, his concluding remarks imply that his views encompassed human evolution (Origin, pp. 484–90).


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

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 LJ for his letter on Origin. Finds LJ agrees with him more than CD had expected.

Discusses problems of geological record, single primordial form, and man.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Leonard Jenyns/Leonard Blomefield
Sent from
Source of text
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2644,” accessed on 17 April 2024,

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