skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   9 January [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

Jan 9th

My dear Huxley

If on 11th you have half-an-hour to spare you might like to see a very good show of Pigeons, & the enclosed card will admit you.—1

The History of Error is quite unimportant, but it is curious to observe how exactly & accurately my Grandfather (in Zoonomia Vol. I. p. 504 1794) gives Lamarcks theory.2 I will quote one sentence    Speaking of Birds Beaks, He says “All which seem to have been gradually produced during many generations by the perpetual endeavour of the creatures to supply the want of food, & to have been delivered to their posterity with constant improvement of them for the purposes required.—”3 Lamarck published Phil. Zoolog in 1809. The Zoonomia was translated into many languages.—4

Ever yours | C. Darwin

Grote, the Historian, was much struck with the article in Times.—5


The annual show of the Philoperisteron Society was held on 11 January 1860 at the Freemason’s Tavern, London (Cottage Gardener, 17 January 1860, p. 248). CD had been a member of the society since 1855 (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 31 August [1855]). Huxley intended to describe CD’s pigeon work in a lecture on natural selection at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 10 February 1860; to assist Huxley, CD had provided him with information on pigeon breeding in a previous letter. CD had also mentioned the expertise and quaint practices of pigeon fanciers and recommended that Huxley attend an exhibition (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to T. H. Huxley, 27 November [1859]).
CD refers to his grandfather Erasmus Darwin and Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet de Lamarck. Huxley had ridiculed Lamarck’s theory of transmutation in his review of Origin in The Times, 26 December 1859, p. 8. See letter to T. H. Huxley, 1 January [1860].
E. Darwin 1794–6, 1: 504. CD’s copy of the work, inherited from his father Robert Waring Darwin, is in the Cambridge University Library. CD marked the passage quoted in the letter and wrote next to it: ‘Lamarck!!’. A slip pasted on the same page reads: ‘504 | Lamarck concisely prestalled by my Grandfather’. CD inserted a note to this effect in the ‘historical sketch’ included in the American edition of Origin, p. vi. See Appendix IV.
In spite of CD’s inference, there is no evidence to suggest that Lamarck was aware of Erasmus Darwin’s work when he composed Philosophie zoologique (Lamarck 1809).
George Grote, the author of A history of Greece (1846–56), was a fellow of the Royal Society. CD met him when he lived in London (Autobiography, p. 111). He had read early volumes of Grote’s history in 1853 and finished the sixth volume in December 1859 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 5, 25).


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

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

Darwin, Erasmus. 1794–6. Zoonomia; or, the laws of organic life. 2 vols. London: J. Johnson.

Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste-Pierre-Antoine. 1809. Philosophie zoologique; ou exposition des considérations relatives à l’histoire naturelle des animaux; à la diversité de leur organisation … et les autres l’intelligence de ceux qui en sont doués. 2 vols. Paris: Dentu; the author.

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.


Sends ticket to pigeon show.

A quotation from Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia [1794, 1796] shows that he anticipated Lamarck.

G. Grote impressed by Times review [26 Dec 1859, p. 8].

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: 96)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2646,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

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