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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Andrew Murray   28 April [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

April 28th

My dear Sir

I thank you from my heart for your most kind letter. I never knew or heard of a hostile Reviewer doing so kind & generous an action.—2 I have read your Review, & I am sure I have no grounds whatever to complain, but on the contrary, to thank you for the general manner of speaking of me. I will scribble down a few remarks & corrections; but there is only one of much importance.—3

Of course on the weight of general argument it would be superfluous in me to make any remarks.— If you think my explanations of rudimentary organs or laws of embryology—succession of same forms on same areas &c &c are not true or of no value, there is nothing more to be said.—4 So my few remarks will apply to details.— Believe me that I feel most truly grateful to you for your kindness

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

I have put little pencil crosses to your Review, to call your attention to passages if you have patience to read my too lengthy notes.

I shd be very much obliged for a copy when published.—5


Review | p. 276.—6 I presume that you think my discussion (p 173–179) on forms now being distinct is of no value (nor do I value it much; I look at it as my only way of getting out of difficulty) but your Reader would imagine that I had slurred over the difficulty.—

p. 277 Is it right to give your idea of opposites marrying, without any allusion to plants & to the many marine hermaphrodite animals? I heartily wish I could believe in such fine sexual selection that a big & dark Carabus preferred for his wife a small & light-coloured female; or conversely—7

p 278. Have you any grounds for believing that a plant’s own pollen is prepotent over that of another variety (please observe not another species).8 Again I rather wish I could believe this: but it is utterly opposed to all that I have observed & experimentised on.— Is it fair to state this without at least some facts?

p 278. Will you please read my p. 14, 15, & consider whether I speak “defiantly” against reversion.—9 I state I rather believe in it in such case as cabbage; but I earnestly desire some good facts.— I have some, but they are not very strong—(rabbits turned out reverting in colour &c) I think ‘defiantly’ is rather strong, when I give the most striking case from experiments, as far as I know, on record of Reversion in colour at least, in Pigeons.— I have since been experimentising for this sole purpose, & have got grand case in Fowls.—

p 279. For above reasons I think “total or almost total negation of reversion” is rather strong.—10 I simply do not believe so strongly in it as you do.— What I believe is, & as it seems to me all experience shows, that with a very little selection, we can keep our cart-horses, greyhounds & fantail pigeons &c true. To improve them or keep them up to highest standard of merit no doubt very careful selection is requisite; but I know of no facts whatever to lead me to believe that a lot of fantails, without any selection exposed to the same conditions under which they have been reared, would not remain fantails for the next 10, thousand years. It may not be so, but I want some shadow of evidence to make me give up this belief—

p. 284.— With respect to your discussion on absence of links in formations, I suppose it is as fair as it could be made so briefly. It would be hardly possible for you to allude to all the points, such as the impossibility of knowing a link if really found; & the impossibility unless every intermediate gradation were found of our distinguishing a linking variety & species.— I have been much pleased & surprised at finding so many practical geologists, attaching no or very little weight to absence of links in our geological formations, for instance, Lyell, Ramsay, Jukes    Rogers.—11 That admirable palæontologist Mr. Salter of the Geolog. Survey showed me 2 or 3 days ago, the Spirifers of Devonian, Lower & Upper Carboniferous formations arranged (not at my request, for I thought he was dead against me) after my diagram in the “Origin”, & it astonished me what a beautiful branching gradation he made by intercalating the varieties & species according to geological age.— 12 Pray remember how many of Al. d’Orbigny’s fine species of shells in successive stages are now sunk into the rank of successive varieties in the estimation of good palæontologists,—for instance of Woodward.—13

p. 285. Here is the only grave misapprehension of my views in your Review.— I by no means believe that the mouth of the Bear (how often that abominable animal has been made to worry me!!) might be increased by use; I referred here exclusively to the “natural selection” of bigger & bigger mouths because advantageous, in this foolish & imaginary illustration.— So if you read my pages on the Bat, you will see that I never dreamed of Galeopithecus gaining its membrane, or the seal its flipper, by use, but by natural selection.14

p 285. I should not rank a treeless plain under physical conditions; the presence of trees, ie of organic beings, I have always ranked under “organic conditions”—15 you will find the paramount importance of “organic conditions” repeated ad nauseam. For organic conditions, as I believe, mainly determine what variations are profitable & what are accordingly naturally selected. This sentence gives a very wrong idea of my views.—

p. 286 You will see at p. 346 347 that I do not speak of S. America & Africa having same conditions, as close as the same species generally require, but only of “certain large tracts” within certain latitudes.—16

p. 286. I wish much you would insert that I never meant to confine my remarks to the insects of the caves. Taking a general view of all inhabitants I doubt whether I am wrong.— I grieve much if I have misunderstood, (God knows it was unintentionally) Schiodte, but I am glad to see that you admit passage is vague.—17 I cannot collect my mind to consider subject now.— You are, of course, very much more likely to be right than I.18 I have, since I published, thought it more probable that as Adelops is blind & is yet found sometimes not in caves, that Anophthalmus might have formerly been a genus fitted for dusky places, & that consequently it was more easily fitted for the caves than any other carabidous insect. I understood, in sense in which you do, Schiödte remark about the gradation in the degree of blindness, & meant no more.—19 Would it be asking you too great a favour to refer me to papers on the several other cases specified by you? It is a load removed from my mind to hear that the species of Anophthalmus are different in the different caves.—20

As I am asking questions, can you tell me how the blind Paussus (or Pausus I forget which) in same country gets from one ants’ nest to another?—21

p. 288. That is a good hit about eyeless state & physical conditions—yet of course I admit in this case the effect of physical conditions. I cannot point out distinction between the effect of physical conditions, as commonly used, & “Disuse”, yet it strikes me that there is some difference.22

p. 289.— Azara most fully confirms my account of the habits of the La Plata Colaptes (p. 184).—23 I was well aware of difference between Colaptes & the typical woodpeckers—but I thought in saying that it agrees in “every essential part of its organisation” I had sufficiently guarded myself. Its undoubted position amongst the woodpeckers seems to me show that it agrees in its essential organisation.24


Dated by the reference to Murray’s review of Origin (Murray 1860a).
Murray sent CD the proof-sheets of his review of Origin before it was published (Murray 1860a). See letter to Charles Lyell, 27 and 28 April [1860]. There are two copies of the review in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL; one is an offprint from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the other is a separately paginated reprint. Both were annotated by CD.
CD refers to the whale–bear case described in Origin, p. 184. See enclosure.
Murray stated that the strongest points in favour of CD’s theory were the taxonomic relationships between groups of organisms and the existence of homologous organs in different animals, some rudimentary and some highly developed (Murray 1860a, p. 289). Nevertheless, he concluded that ‘Mr Darwin’s theory is unsound’ (ibid., p. 291).
See n. 2, above.
The page numbers given by CD do not exactly correspond with those of the published review. CD refers to Murray 1860a, pp. 276–7, in which Murray claimed that if variation were unlimited, ‘there would be nothing but an indiscriminate mass of creatures running all into each other’. In the published version, possibly as a result of showing CD the proof-sheets, Murray added a note at this point (Murray 1860a, p. 277 n.): One of Mr Darwin’s explanations of the absence of intermediate forms may be taken as his answer to this objection—viz., that these forms are, in point of fact, numerically weaker than the forms on each side which they link together, and thus are liable to be exterminated sooner than them. But, admitting the fact to be that they are less numerous, why should they be so under Mr Darwin’s theory? With unlimited powers of modification, why should the intermediate forms always be originally fewer.
Murray 1860a, p. 277, refers to an ‘instinctive inclination which induces individuals of the same species by preference to intercross with those possessing the qualities which they themselves want, so as to preserve the purity or equilibrium of the breed.’
Murray 1860a, p. 278. In his separate offprint of the paper (Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL), CD wrote next to this passage in pencil: ‘oh    Cabbages’.
Murray may have altered his proofs in acknowledgment of CD’s point. The printed version reads: ‘This phase of reversion to type is slightly alluded to, and slightingly admitted as an element by Darwin.’ (Murray 1860a, p. 277). Later in the article he also stated: ‘Mr Darwin of course disputes it [Reversion], or at least does not admit it, and desiderates the evidence on which the statement has been so often made, that our domestic varieties, when run wild, gradually but certainly revert in character to their aboriginal stocks.’ (Murray 1860a, p. 278).
Murray 1860a, p. 279, reads: ‘my first objection to the principles on which Mr Darwin’s theory rests is, that it is founded on exaggerated and undue estimate of the one—the power of modification; and if not a negation, at least an inadequate concession of the other, viz. the principle of reversion to type.’
CD refers to Charles Lyell, Andrew Crombie Ramsay, Joseph Beete Jukes, and Henry Darwin Rogers. See Murray 1860a, pp. 283–4.
CD had learned of the close relationships between species of fossil Spirifer from Jukes earlier in the year (see letter from J. B. Jukes, 27 February 1860). John William Salter was a colleague of Jukes’s at the Museum of Practical Geology. CD had visited London from 21 to 23 April 1860 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Alcide Charles Victor Dessalines d’Orbigny and Samuel Pickworth Woodward.
Murray added a note to his citation of CD’s whale–bear case (Murray 1860a, p. 275 n.): In quoting this, I do not at all mean to give it as a fair illustration of Mr Darwin’s views. I only refer to it as indicating the extent to which he is prepared to go. The example here given I look upon (as I have reason to know Mr Darwin does himself) merely as an extreme and somewhat extravagant illustration, imagined expressly to show in a forcible way how “natural selection” would operate in making a mouth bigger and bigger, because more advantageous. For CD’s previous discussion of this case, see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Richard Owen, 10 December [1859]. Galeopithecus is the flying lemur.
On p. 285 of his review (Murray 1860a), Murray presented a series of arguments against CD’s view that physical conditions could not effect change in a species. In Origin, p. 184, CD used woodpeckers living on the plains of La Plata, ‘where not a tree grows’, as an illustration of how species change might occur through natural selection. Although Murray removed the reference to ‘treeless plains’ from p. 285 (see letter from Andrew Murray, 3 May 1860), he nonetheless stated that the birds CD referred to were an example of alteration in structure ‘consequent upon different physical conditions of life’ (ibid., p. 259). In his separate offprint of Murray’s paper (Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL), CD underlined the expression ‘physical conditions’ in pencil and added two exclamation marks in the margin.
Murray 1860a, pp. 285–6.
Murray devoted a long section of his article to a discussion of the origin of cave fauna, on which he was an expert (Murray 1860a, pp. 286–8). He considered that CD’s theory could not explain the existence of closely related species of blind insects in caves geographically far removed from one another. CD maintained that the species under consideration were not closely related (Origin, p. 138). In the published version of the article, Murray added a note addressing CD’s point (Murray 1860a, p. 286): Although Mr Darwin here uses the observations of Schiodte upon blind insects as an illustration, his remarks (as he himself has had the kindness to inform me) are not meant to be confined to them, but also to be applied to the whole of the animals found in caves. But as his theory, if true, should meet every case, a clear flaw in even one would be fatal to the whole, and I would have tested it with these insects, whether they had been referred to by Mr Darwin himself or not. The reference is to Schiödte [1849]. CD had studied this and other works on cave fauna in 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from J. O. Westwood, 23 November 1856). See also letter from John Lubbock, [after 28 April 1860].
Murray had published a paper on the comparative anatomy of insect eyes, in which he likened the absence of eyes in larval forms to the absence of eyes in cave insects. Both, he maintained, had no need for them in their search for food (Murray 1857).
Murray 1860a, p. 288.
Murray 1857, pp. 132–4.
Murray discussed the recent identification of blind insects living in ants‘ nests in Murray 1857, p. 130. Paussus, however, was not mentioned. The Paussidae are a family of ground beetles that inhabit ants’ nests in tropical countries (Leftwich 1976).
Murray offered a hypothetical case of an ancestral member of the Trechidae wandering into a cave and, by a process of natural selection, eventually turning into the eyeless Anophthalmus. Murray went on to state: ‘But if he thus saves his theory, what becomes of his disbelief in the effects of physical conditions? If it has no effect, why have they all turned into Anophthalmi?’ (Murray 1860a, p. 288).
Murray 1860a, p. 289. CD refers to Azara 1809. There is an annotated copy of the work in the Darwin Library–CUL.
See n. 15, above.


Azara, Félix de. 1809. Voyages dans l’Amérique Méridionale. Edited by C. A. Walckenaer, with additional notes by G. Cuvier. 4 vols. and atlas. Paris: Dentu.

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

Murray, Andrew. 1857. On insect-vision and blind insects. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal n.s. 6: 120–38.

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.

Schiödte, Jörgen C. [1849]. Bidrag til den underjordiske Fauna. Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskabs Skrifter. Naturvidenskabelig og Mathematisk n.s. 2 (1851): 1–39. [Vols. 6,8]


Has read MS of AM’s review [of Origin, read at Edinburgh Royal Society, 20 Feb 1860]; has no complaints. Has never heard of a hostile reviewer’s doing so kind and generous an action [as sending his MS for CD’s criticism?]. Sends some remarks on details.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Andrew Dickson (Andrew) Murray
Sent from
Source of text
Dartmouth College Library (MSS 000566); R. D. Pyrah (private collection)
Physical description
ALS 4pp, encl Amem 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2772,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

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