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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Lyell   [13–14 February 1860]1

vast that a variety of phases may have occurred in climate— Heer & Gaudin with their leaves & plants in modern travertines will I expect clear up the point in time.2

Auguste Bravard has sent me in a lithographed letter an astounding list of new mammalia found by him in Buenos Ayres, Bahia Blanca & Paranà—basin of Plata—Pampas &c—3 He says (& he is generally right) he has found 56 species, raising the number from 10 to 66    Three new species of Scelidotherium, one Megalonix    Two new Mylodons five new Glyptodons, about as many of Dasypus    Five new pachyderms of new genera— Several new felidæ, canidæ   New ruminants Camelotherium & Cervus besides rodents &c—

All the above post- or newer-pliocene but there are also some upper Miocene [whale], & what is surely a very grand discovery among the Eocene mammalia Anoplotherium americanum Brav—& Paleotherium Paranense Brav—both from Paranà. Is not the occurrence of Paris Gypsum Upper Eocene European forms quite new?4 Then he has with the above an Eocene Palæophis which I think is the genus of Owen’s Sheppey Sea-serpent.—5 On referring to Morris‘ catalogue6 I see it also ascends to middle Eocene in Hants—two species—   But Bravard is not such good authority for reptiles. How much more significant such facts are if one can once feel sure of transmutation—& hereditary descent.

I have had a good half hour’s argument with the Bp of Oxford, Wilberforce, he maintaining that your book “was the most unphilosophical he had ever read”. Of course he seized on the most vulnerable points with no small skill, as if “all having come from one egg” was the Keystone of your theory!—   Bell did the same in argument—7 Some day I will tell you all about the fight—   If he reviews you I think I shall recognize his hand.8 Have you seen the attack in Annals & Mag. Nat. Hist. Febry 1860 (v. 5. No. 26)

Surely it must be Lowe or Wollaston—some one who knows Madeira p. 141. probably the Revd—for tho’ T. V. W. is very orthodox I do not think he would experience such a “cold shudder”—9   It is written by one who personally has a liking for you I should think—on the whole ably done—   But if it be Low he has only put one side of the (Madeira?) land-shell question for out of his sub-species of certain polymorphic species in each island I cd. raise a good argument to meet the equally striking persistency of the majority of species from a remote post- or newer-pliocene epoch— I speak of course of the land shells—   It is strange when each rock & island has an insular variety of certain species that others remain so entirely unchanged from the fossil period—   Still on the whole the Madeira evidence cuts as much or more your way as the opposite.10

Have you read Wallace in the last Linn. Socy Proceedings.11

If Madeira was joined to the main land & Porto Santo I cannot understand how the land shells of the two can be so very dissimilar & also so peculiar & unlike the continental species. What a deal Wallace gives one to think of—   He gains with some by stating his antitype theory because he makes that a law at any rate & so the anti-

CD annotations

1.1 vast … time. 1.2] crossed pencil
3.2 what is surely … descent. 3.9] ‘Mem. Nebraska    Grand showing same law on Land as sea.’ added ink
4.1 I have .   .   ably done—5.4 crossed pencil
4.5 If he … hand. 4.6] cross added pencil, circled pencil
4.7 Febry … 26)] underl pencil
5.3 “cold shudder”] cross added pencil, circled pencil
5.4 But if … opposite. 5.11] ‘19’12 brown crayon, circled brown crayon
6.1 Have … anti- 7.5] crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘21’13 brown crayon


Dated by the reference to the reviews of Origin (see nn. 8 and 9, below) and by the relationship to the letter to Charles Lyell, 15 and 16 [February 1860]).
Oswald Heer and Charles Théophile Gaudin were Swiss palaeobotanists. Both were currently investigating the Tertiary flora of Europe.
Pierre Joseph Auguste Bravard emigrated to Argentina from France in 1852 and became director of the museum in Paraná.
The gypsum quarries around Paris provided some of the fossils on which Georges Cuvier based his pioneering reconstructions of extinct mammals, including the genera Anoplotherium and Palaeotherium described in Cuvier 1804–8.
In R. Owen 1839, Richard Owen described the fossilised remains of what he called an ‘extinct species of serpent’, found in the London Clay deposits on the island of Sheppey.
Morris 1854. John Morris’s work was the standard source of information on British fossils.
Thomas Bell was president of the Linnean Society of London.
Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford, reviewed Origin anonymously in the Quarterly Review 108 (1860): 225–64.
Both Richard Thomas Lowe and Thomas Vernon Wollaston had collected extensively on the island of Madeira. Wollaston was the anonymous author of the review of Origin in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History ([Wollaston] 1860).
Both CD and Lyell had corresponded with Lowe and Wollaston about the distinct species of land molluscs found on islands in the Madeira group. See Correspondence vols. 5 and 6, and Wilson ed. 1970.
Wallace 1860. Wallace had sent CD the paper and asked him to communicate it to the Linnean Society. CD told Wallace he thought it was ‘admirable’. See Correspondence vol. 7, letter to A. R. Wallace, 9 August 1859.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the geographical distribution of animals. The letter was cut in two and filed separately.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on palaeontology and extinction.


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

Cuvier, Georges. 1804–8. Sur les espèces d’animaux dont proviennent les os fossiles répandus dans la pierre à plâtre des environ de Paris. Annales du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle 3: 275–303, 364–87, 442–72; 4: 66–75; 6: 253–83; 9: 10–15, 16–44, 89–102, 205–15, 272–82; 12: 271–84.

Morris, John. 1854. A catalogue of British fossils: comprising the genera and species hitherto described; with references to their geological distribution and to the localities in which they have been found. 2d ed. London.

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.

Wallace, Alexander. 1860. Remarks on the occurrence of rarer British Sphingidae. [Read 4 June 1860.] Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 5 (1858–61), Proceedings, pp. 119–20.

[Wollaston, Thomas Vernon]. 1860a. Review of Origin of species. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 5: 132–43. Reprinted in Hull 1973, pp. 127–40. [Vols. 6,7,8]


Discusses phases of climate.

Describes fossil mammals discovered by Auguste Bravard in South America.

Has had argument with Bishop of Oxford [Samuel Wilberforce] about CD’s book [Origin].

Discusses review in Annals and Magazine of Natural History. Guesses that T. V. Wollaston is the author.

Discusses evidence of shells on Madeira.

Comments on paper by Wallace ["On the zoological geography of the Malay Archipelago", J. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Zool.) 4 (1860): 172–84].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.3: 283, DAR 205.9: 395
Physical description
AL inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2694,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

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