skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   14 January [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 14th

My dear Lyell

Your gossip about Reviewer has interested & amused me much.— I have reread Gardeners Ch. with extreme pleasure now that I know Hooker is author.—1

Jeffreys’ letter is really not worth sending:2 he says nothing about migration but only refers me to his paper on Testacea of Piedmont in Annals & Mag. of Nat. History for Feb. 1856.3 He refers, to another paper on British shells, but gives no sort of reference, & I have looked over all his papers, which I have, & can find nothing. Perhaps I spoke too strongly about his non-migration views;; I remember thinking him far too narrow & decided in his opposition to Forbes. for casting my eye now over his paper I find my memory seems to have exaggerated his non-migration doctrine.4 I hardly understand what he objects to, in my Book; unless it be that I follow Forbes on Glacial migration—5 I am convinced from littoral shells of Galapagos Arch. that such shells must have some great power of migration; for if you require continuous coasts for the migration of littoral shells, you would have to unite these islands, within the period of living shells both to America & the far distant Pacific islands, which, I presume would stagger even the warmest followers of Forbes.6 By the way it strikes me that one of grandest points in Hooker’s Essay is the (in my eyes, but I presume by no means in his eyes) demonstration that N. Zealand has not been continuously, or even nearly continuously, united with Australia within recent times.7

I shall be much interested in reading your man discussion, & will give my opinion carefully whatever that may be worth; but I have so long looked at you as the type of cautious scientific judgment (to my mind one of the highest & most useful qualities) that I suspect my opinion will be superfluous.—   It makes me laugh to think what a joke it will be, if I have to caution you, after your cautions on same subject to me!.—

I will order Owen’s Book:8 I am very glad to hear Huxley’s opinion on his classification of man; without having due knowledge it seemed to me from very first absurd.9 All classifications founded on single character, I believe have failed.

I agree with Huxley that it is a difficulty about no ascertained varieties known to have been raised by man, being sterile together: varieties of same kind, I believe, not rarely prefer pairing together; I have fact on this head. But I think Huxley had not considered my discussion. (p. 268 new Edit.) The sterility of the vars of Verbascum is a most wonderful case, & that of Tobaccos. But the subject of sterility is so profoundly mysterious, as I could show, & as anyone will see who will read even my short chapter, that it would be truly wonderful if no difficulties were presented; & as you say the subject would be no subject for discussion.10

With respect to Geoffroy St. Hilaire, I have been glancing over his Life by Isidore & his Principes;11 & it seems to me that he was a rather doubtful maintainer of change of species.— Isidore writes to me that he himself is a firm maintainer of such views: he says he has sent me a publication of his to show this, but it has not arrived.12

With respect to cave insects the same seeing genera do range over, as you well know, Europe & N. America, & the difficulty applies chiefly in this case of America & Europe. Do you know of any miocene or pliocene fossil insect in N. America; your hint would be very valuable, if I could show that some extinct genera were common to both countries?—

Goodnight— | Yours affect | C. Darwin

What a grand, immense benefit you conferred on me by getting Murray to publish my Book.—13 I never till to day realised that it was getting widely distributed; for in a letter from a lady today to Emma, she says she heard a man enquiring for it at Railway Station!!! at Waterloo Bridge; & the Bookseller said that he had none till new Edit. was out.— The Bookseller said he had not read it but had heard it was a very remarkable book!!!

Can you give me any suggestion how to get a German Translator. As for France I suppose there will be no chance: Madame Belloc finds it too difficult.—14 (Since this written by odd chance I have had letter from Frenchman who wishes much, to translate.)15


See preceding letter.
John Gwyn Jeffreys’s letter has not been found, but its contents can be inferred from CD’s reply (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. G. Jeffreys, 29 December [1859]).
Jeffreys 1856. There is an annotated offprint in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
In his paper, Jeffreys criticised Edward Forbes’s division of the Mediterranean fauna into ‘elements’, each of which originated in different geographical areas. CD marked the passages discussing this point in his copy of Jeffreys’s paper (Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL). However, Jeffreys went on to state that all he contended was ‘that the areas of geographical distribution, as proposed by the late Professor Forbes and others, are much too restricted to existing circumstances, and that they ought rather to be referred to a prior state of things.’ (Jeffreys 1856, p. 171).
On the question of plant migration during the glacial period, Forbes hypothesised that as the ice retreated, alpine plants continued to survive on mountain tops in the temperate zones (E. Forbes 1846).
CD had debated the land-bridge theory of geographical distribution and other means of dispersal with both Lyell and Joseph Dalton Hooker in 1846 and again in 1856 (see Correspondence vols. 3 and 6). CD particularly alludes to the heated correspondence he had with Lyell about Forbes’s resort to hypothetical former continents in order to explain patterns of geographical distribution (Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Charles Lyell, 25 June [1856]).
Hooker 1859, p. lxxxvii. In his copy (Darwin Library–CUL), CD noted next to this passage: ‘very striking, looks to me conclusive that never continuous land’.
Thomas Henry Huxley’s comments on Richard Owen’s classification of man have not been located, but he discussed the subject at length in T. H. Huxley 1861b. CD had made much the same remark about an earlier paper by Owen on classification (see Correspondence vol. 6, letters to J. D. Dana, 5 April [1857] and to J. D. Hooker, 5 July [1857]).
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 11 January [1860]. CD discussed the varieties of Verbascum and the sterility of tobacco hybrids in Variation 2: 105–7, 136–7, 108–9.
CD was composing a historical sketch of evolutionary theories for future editions of Origin, in which he mentioned the work of Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. He refers to Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire’s biography of his father (I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1847) and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire’s Principes de philosophie zoologique (E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1830). CD recorded having read the biography in 1855 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 14).
The letter has not been found, but see the letters to Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 12 January [1860] and 28 January [1860]. The reference is to I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1851, a copy of which is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
For the circumstances involving John Murray’s publication of Origin, see Correspondence vol. 7, letters to Charles Lyell, 28 March [1859] and 30 March [1859], and to John Murray, 31 March [1859].
Louise Swanton Belloc had contacted CD in November 1859 offering to translate Origin into French. See Correspondence vol. 7, letter to John Murray, 14 November [1859].
See following letter.


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

Forbes, Edward. 1846. On the connexion between the distribution of the existing fauna and flora of the British Isles, and the geological changes which have affected their area, especially during the epoch of the Northern Drift. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, and of the Museum of Economic Geology in London 1: 336–432.

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Isidore. 1847. Vie, travaux et doctrine scientifique d’E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Paris.

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Isidore. 1851. Cours de zoologie (mammifères et oiseaux), fait au Muséum d’histoire naturelle, en 1850. Revue et magasin de zoologie 2d ser. 3: 12–20.

Jeffreys, John Gwyn. 1856. On the marine Testacea of the Piedmontese coast. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 2d ser. 17: 155–88.

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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Review of Origin in Gardeners’ Chronicle [31 Dec 1859].

Criticises views of J. G. Jeffreys on non-migration of shells. Cites case of Galapagos shells.

Mentions Edward Forbes’s theory of submerged continental extensions. Cites Hooker’s [introductory] essay [in Flora Tasmaniae (1860)] for evidence against any recent connection between Australia and New Zealand.

Discusses Huxley’s views of hybrid sterility.

Questions whether Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire believed in species change. Mentions views of Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.

The distribution of cave insects.

CD’s study of man.

The problems of locating French and German translators.

Huxley’s criticism of Owen’s views on human classification.

The sale of Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
JA 15 60
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.192)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2650,” accessed on 16 July 2024,

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