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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Joseph Prestwich   12 March [1860]1

Down. Bromley Kent.

March 12th.

My dear Sir.

The recent important changes in taxation2 will probably have absorbed much of your attention but at some future time when you have a little leisure and when you have read my “Origin of Species” I should esteem it a singular favour if you would send me any general criticisms—3 I do not mean of unreasonable length, but such as you could include in a letter. I have always admired your various memoirs so much that I should be eminently glad to receive your opinion, which might be of real service to me.4

Pray do not suppose that I expect to convert or pervert you; if I could stagger you in ever so slight a degree I should be satisfied; nor fear to annoy me by severe criticisms for I have had some hearty kicks from some of my best friends. If it would not be disagreeable to you to send me your opinion I certainly should be truly obliged—

I find that I have not put clearly how, as it seems to me, the general argument ought fairly to be viewed; namely, natural selection as a mere hypothesis (rendered in some slight degree probable by the analogy of domestication and the struggle for existence.) which hypothesis has to be judged of by whether it explains a number of facts in Geographical Distribution, Geological Succession    Classification, Homology, Embryology &c. If it does explain such facts then the hypothesis seems to me to rise in rank to a theory.

Pray forgive me troubling you with this note, and believe me | My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | C. Darwin.


Dated by the reference to Origin.
Prestwich was the proprietor of a family wine business in London. New tax laws affecting the wine trade were currently being instituted (see Hansard vol. 156).
CD sent Prestwich a presentation copy of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Thomas Henry Huxley, 27 November [1859]).
Prestwich had written important papers on the geology of the coalfields of Shropshire and on the water-bearing strata of the south of England. In 1859 and 1860, he turned his attention to a study of the flint implements found in France and England and their significance for the question of the antiquity of man.


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

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.


Asks if JP can send criticism of Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Prestwich
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2729,” accessed on 1 June 2023,

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