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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. G. Bronn   14 February [1860]1

Down. Bromley Kent.

Feb. 14th

My dear & much honoured Sir

I thank you cordially for your extreme kindness in superintending the Translation    I have mentioned this to some eminent scientific men, & they all agree that you have done a noble & generous service— If I am proved quite wrong yet I comfort myself in thinking that my book may do some good; as truth can only be known by rising victorious from every attack. I thank you also much for the Review & for the kind manner in which you speak of me.—2 I send with this letter some corrections & additions to M. Schweitzerbart, & a short historical Preface.3 I am not much acquainted with German Authors as I read German very slowly. Therefore I do not know whether any Germans have advocated similar views with mine; if they have would you do me the favour to insert a footnote to the Preface?4 M Schweitzerbart has now the reprint ready for a Translator to begin—

Several scientific men have thought the term “Natural Selection” good, because its meaning is not obvious & each man could not put on it his own interpretation, & because it at once connects variation under domestication & nature    Is there any analogous term used by German Breeders of Animals? “Adelung” ennobling would or perhaps be too metaphorical. It is folly in me but I cannot help doubting whether “Wahl der Lebens-weise” expresses my notion— It leaves the impression on my mind of the Lamarckian doctrine (which I reject) of habits of life being all important— Man has altered & thus improved the English Race Horse by selecting successive fleeter individuals; & I believe owing to the struggle for existence that similar slight variations in a Wild Horse if advantageous to it would be selected or preserved by nature; Hence Natural Selection—   But I apologise for troubling you with these remarks on the importance of choosing good German terms for “Natural Selection”.5

With my heartfelt thanks & with sincere respect— I remain Dear Sir | Yours very sincerely— | Charles Darwin—

I am very much obliged for your “Stuffengang &c” which I am now reading—6 I wish I knew what was the authority for a Batrachian in the New Hebrides.—7


Dated by the reference to the German translation of Origin.
Bronn 1860a. There is a copy of the review in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Christian Friedrich Schweizerbart, owner of the publishing firm E. Schweizerbart of Stuttgart, was the publisher of the German edition of Origin (see letter to H. G. Bronn, 4 February [1860]). The historical preface that CD had composed for the authorised American edition of Origin (see Correspondence vol.8, Appendix IV) was also published in the German edition of 1860. It was subsequently expanded and included in the third English edition.
Bronn did not follow CD’s suggestion, although he did include a footnote to the discussion of Étienne Geoffroy St Hilaire’s views on species (Bronn trans. 1860, p. 2 n.): Bekanntlich kam er in der Akademie mehrmals zu heftigen Auftritten noch mit Cuvier, welcher die Beständigkeit der Species gegen ihn vertheidigte. D. Übers. [It is well known that on several occasions in the academy he had violent clashes with Cuvier, who defended against him the view of the constancy of species. The translator.] In the historical sketch included in Origin 3d ed., CD cited the German naturalists Hermann Schaaffhausen, Karl Ernst von Baer, and Karl Friedrich Burdach as having expressed views on species change. In a note (p. xviii), he added to these Franz Unger, Joseph Wilhelm Eduard d’Alton, and Lorenz Oken on the basis of references given in Bronn 1858b.
In his review of Origin, Bronn had referred to natural selection as ‘Wahl der Lebens-Weise’ (Bronn 1860a, p. 112). The term Bronn used in his translation was ‘natürliche Züchtung’.
Bronn 1860b. There are two copies in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL, one of which is annotated.
Bronn 1860b, p. 13 n. According to CD’s views on the colonisation of oceanic islands, it would be very difficult for frogs or their eggs, which are damaged by salt-water, to reach isolated areas such as the New Hebrides.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Origin 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

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 HGB for agreeing to superintend translation of Origin.

Comments on HGB’s review.

Encloses corrections and preface for Schweizerbart. Discusses translation of term "natural selection".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Heinrich Georg Bronn
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2698,” accessed on 7 March 2021,

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