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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. S. Henslow   5 May 1860

7 Downing Terrace | Cambridge

5 May 1860

My dear Darwin,

I read your wishes to my Class—& yesterday after lecture a few of us walked to Cherry Hinton—1 I found the Elodea had made great progress since I saw it a year or two ago—   It is now quite up to the source of th〈e〉 stream & fills the ditches, in Cherry Hinton itself— But I find this stream is not connected with the water course that runs past the Botanic Garden (as I had supposed) but runs down to the paper mills beyond Barnwell—   It seems therefore to have travelled up from the river itself which is full of it—   So far as mere recollection guides me it seems to have greatly diminished the quantity of Ranunculus aquatilis var fluitans which used to abound in the stream at the part we visited— It decidedly preponderates over every other aquatic, but I found it associated with Potamogeton densus (in small quantity) & Ranunculus aquatilis, & intermixed with plants of the Lemna trisulca—

Sedgwick is to illuminate us on Monday at the Philosophical Society in regard to your supposed errors!2 How can Owen be so savage with your views when his own are to a certain extent of the same character—3 If I understand him, he thinks the “Becoming” of species (I suppose he means the producing of species), a somewhat rapid & not a slow process—but he seems to think them progressive organised out of previously organized beings—

analogous (?) to minerals (simple & compound) out of some + - 60 Elements

   I don’t think it is at all becoming in one Naturalist to be bitter against another—any more than for one sect to burn the members of another—

Kind regards to Mrs D.— &c— Yrs affectly | J S Henslow

CD annotations

1.2 the Elodea] ‘(or Anacharis)’ added pencil
2.1 Sedgwick … Henslow 3.1] crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘Ch 5 (& 20)’4 brown crayon


Adam Sedgwick read a paper criticising Origin at a meeting of the Cambridge Philosophical Society on 7 May 1860.
In November 1859, Owen had written that he was ‘disposed to believe’ in some form of transmutation (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter from Richard Owen, 12 November 1859). However, his review of Origin ([R. Owen] 1860a) was highly critical (see letters to T. H. Huxley, 9 April [1860], and to Charles Lyell, 10 April [1860]).
h 5‘ was CD’s chapter on the struggle for existence from his ’big book‘ on species (Natural selection, pp. 172–212). ’20‘ was the number of his portfolio of notes on the geographical distribution of plants. CD was interested in the spread of plants like Elodea (or Anacharis) as examples of introduced species competing successfully with comparable native forms.


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

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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.


Reports to CD on what he has found out about Elodea growing near Cambridge.

Sedgwick is speaking at [Cambridge] Philosophical Society on CD’s "supposed errors" [Camb. Herald & Huntingdonshire Gaz. 19 May 1860, pp. 3–4].

JSH wonders how Owen can be so savage toward CD’s views when his own are "to a certain extent of the same character".

Letter details

Letter no.
John Stevens Henslow
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 186: 47
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2783,” accessed on 5 August 2020,

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