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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   25 February [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

Feb 25th

My dear Lyell

I am very glad to hear about Owen; not but what I fully expect many & bitter sneers from him.—

I am glad to hear that you used the same line of argument as Spencer’s to the Bishop: it seems to me much the safest & truest.—2

I cannot help wondering at your zeal about my Book. I declare to Heaven you seem to care as much about my Book, as I do myself.— You have no right to be so eminently unselfish! I have taken off my spit a letter of Ramsays; as every geologist convert, I think very important.3 By the way I saw some time ago letter from H. D. Rogers to Huxley in which he goes very far with us.—4 I send also first page of 2d letter from Bronn; showing that he is thinking more about the Book. It seems he is going to translate it himself. The rest of letter was only doubt about meaning of unusual English terms.—5

I had letter today from Sir W. Jardine,—strongly opposed to my views—but his attack on my ornithological accuracy has frittered into absolutely nothing.—6 He says Andrew Murray has just read Paper to Royal Socy. versus my views.,—I presume brought in somehow incidentally.—7

I do not know whether the degraded flowers of Aspicarpa fruit, but in some other cases the degraded flowers are more fertile than the perfect.—8

I can easily believe in your criticisms on part of H. Spencer’s work: I have just read his Essay on population, in which he discusses life & publishes such dreadful hypothetical rubbish on the nature of reproduction.9

My dear Lyell | Yours ever gratefully | C. Darwin


Dated by the reference to Murray 1860a (see n. 7, below).
CD refers to his practice of filing letters, or portions of letters, on metal spikes (pits’) until needed. According to Francis Darwin, CD periodically burnt the accumulated letters. ‘This process, carried on for years, destroyed nearly all letters received before 1862.’ (LL 1: V). The letter from Andrew Crombie Ramsay was probably the one dated 21 February 1860.
Henry Darwin Rogers, the American geologist, was professor of natural history at Glasgow University. A change in university regulations meant that Rogers was obliged to teach zoology, and he received coaching from Thomas Henry Huxley during the summer of 1858 (Gregory 1916, p. 12). In a letter to his brother William Barton Rogers, H. D. Rogers called Origin ‘a suggestive book, full of ingenious arguments in favour of the Lamarckian hypothesis.’ However, he disagreed with CD’s emphasis on slow and gradual geological change. See Rogers ed. 1896, 2: 17–18.
The letter from Heinrich Georg Bronn has not been found, but see the preceding letter for CD’s reply.
The letter from William Jardine has not been found. For Jardine’s earlier criticisms of Origin, see Correspondence vol. 7, letter from William Jardine, 20 December 1859.
Murray 1860a. Andrew Murray read the paper at a meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 20 February 1860. See also letters to Andrew Murray, 28 April [1860], and 28 [April 1860].


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Gregory, J. W. 1916. Henry Darwin Rogers: an address to the Glasgow University Geological Society 20th January, 1916. Glasgow: James MacLehose and Sons.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

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.


Comments on CL’s reaction to the Origin. Mentions reactions of other scientists.

Discusses fertility of Aspicarpa.

Criticises Herbert Spencer’s views on population.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.201)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2714,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

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