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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   18 May [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

May 18th

My dear Lyell

I send letter from Asa Gray to show how hotly battle rages there.— Also one from Wallace, very just in his remarks, though too laudatory & too modest, & how admirably free from envy or jealousy.— He must be a good fellow. Perhaps I will enclose letter from Thomson of Calcutta, not that it is much, but Hooker thinks so highly of him.—1

Many thanks for your interesting letter of 15th.2    What interesting facts are turning up about man!—   With respect to Rabbit & Hares; Lewis takes the account from Isid. G. St. Hilaire:3 I have not yet looked at original account; such good men are concerned that I think there can be no mistake. Yet I shall not be satisfied till I hear how he got his first hybrids.— There is an old variety called Hare-rabbit— A good naturalist once assured me he had found hybrid pheasant-fowls perfectly fertile int se; after a time I found out that he had bought the first cross, & this supposed cross was the variety called “pheasant-fowl” & which does resemble the pheasant considerably.— Some time when you have done with it I shd much like to see Schaafhausen pamphlet on natural selection.—4

I have ordered Canadian Mag;5 but if I cannot get it, will borrow yours.—

Henslow informs me that Sedgwick & then Prof. Clarke made a regular & savage onslaught on my Book lately at Cambridge Phil. Soc. but Henslow seems to have defended me well, & maintained that the subject was a quite legitimate one for investigation.—6 Since then Phillips has given lecture at Cambridge on same subject, but treated it very fairly.7 How splendidly Asa Gray is fighting the battle.8 The effect on me of these multiplied attacks is simply to show me that the subject is worth fighting for, & assuredly I will do my best. But ill-health & multifarious interrutions make my progress excessively slow.—   I can very plainly see, as I lately told Hooker, that my Book would have been & be a mere flash in the pan, were it not for you, Hooker & a few others.—   I hope all the attacks make you keep up your courage; & courage you assuredly will require.

Etty to day has been a shade better.9 Tomorrow or Sunday makes 3 weeks.—   It has been dreadfully harassing to us. She has not suffered much, except the pitiable weariness of so long a fever.—

My dear Lyell | Yours affect | C. Darwin

I have read some of Godron.—10 He strikes me as rather common-place, which surprises me as he wrote capital paper on means of Distribution of plants.—11 He puts the old case well that mere physical conditions do very little in modifying organic forms.—

I have just received 8 Pages of verses, anonymous, apparently well done, quizzing & lauding my Book & me, but I have hardly read them. They have been copied so I cannot recognise hand-writing.—12

I forget whether I told you that there was very good & long quiz in Manchester newspaper some time ago, showing that I had proved that “might was right” was the universal law of nature.—13


The letters from Asa Gray, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Thomas Thomson have not been found.
Lyell’s letter has not been found.
CD refers to a description of the hybrid progeny of rabbits and hares in a paper by George Henry Lewes (Lewes 1860, p. 604). Lewes stated that over 1000 hybrids had been reared and sold at market in Angoulême in France and cited I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1854–62, vol. 3, as his authority. Lewes’s article was reprinted in book form in 1862 under the title Studies in animal life. For Lyell’s response to this information, see the letter from Charles Lyell, 19 June 1860; see also Wilson ed. 1970, p. 450. When CD discussed the case in Variation, he referred to Pierre Paul Broca’s ‘interesting memoir on this subject’ (Variation 1: 105 and n. 7). The reference is to Broca 1858–9.
Schaaffhausen 1853. There is an annotated copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Bound with the pamphlet is a manuscript translation of the section discussing the development of organic life (Schaaffhausen 1853, pp. 423–4), possibly prepared for CD by the Darwins‘ governess, Camilla Ludwig.
Dawson 1860b.
CD refers to John Stevens Henslow, Adam Sedgwick, and William Clark. See letter from J. S. Henslow to J. D. Hooker, 10 May 1860.
See preceding letter and n. 13.
Emma Darwin recorded in her diary on 28 April 1860 that Henrietta Emma Darwin was ‘poorly’. Her fever had been diagnosed as a form of typhus (letter to J. D. Hooker, 11 May [1860]).
Godron 1859. This book contains reprints of two of Dominique Alexandre Godron’s papers on species that CD had particularly wanted to read in 1855 (see Correspondence vol. 5). He had apparently been unsuccessful in obtaining copies of the papers. There is an annotated copy of the book in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Godron 1853.
The verses have not been found. CD suspected that the author was the botanist Francis Boott (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 20 May [1860]).


Broca, Paul. 1858–9. Mémoire sur l’hybridité en général, sur la distinction des espèces amimales et sur les métis obtenus par le croisement du lièvre et du lapin. Journal de la Physiologie de l’Homme et des Animaux 1: 432–71, 684–729; 2: 218–58, 345–96.

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

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Isidore. 1854–62. Histoire naturelle générale des règnes organiques, principalement étudiée chez l’homme et les animaux. 3 vols. Paris: Victor Masson.

Godron, Dominique Alexandre. 1859. De l’espèce et des races dans les êtres organisés et spécialement de l’unité de l’espèce humaine. 2 vols. Paris: J. B. Baillière.

Lewes, George Henry. 1860. Studies in animal life. Cornhill Magazine 1: 61–74, 198–207, 283–95, 438–47, 598–607, 682–90.

Phillips, John. 1860. Life on the earth, its origin and succession. Cambridge and London: Macmillan and Co.

Schaaffhausen, Hermann. 1853. Über beständigkeit und Umwandlung der Arten. Verhandlungen des Naturhistorischen Vereines der preussischen Rheinlande und Westphalens 10: 420–51.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Comments on enclosed letters from Asa Gray and Wallace [missing].

Discusses hybrid fertility in rabbits and hares, and pheasants and fowls.

Asks about paper by Hermann Schaaffhausen ["Über Beständigkeit u. Umwandlung der Arten", Verh. Naturhist. Ver. Preuss. Rheinlande 10 (1853): 420–51].

Mentions criticism by Sedgwick and William Clark at Cambridge Philosophical Society.

Notes importance of CL and Hooker in defending Origin.

Comments on papers by D. A. Godron ["Considérations sur les migrations des végétaux", Acad. Stanislas Mem. Soc. Sci. Nancy (1853): 329–67].

Mentions receiving anonymous verses.

A Manchester newspaper lampoon shows CD has proved "might makes right" to be a universal law.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.212)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2806,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

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