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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   1 [June 1860]

Down Bromley Kent

Friday night— 1st.

My dear Lyell

Poor Etty’s fever drags on its weary course & Sunday will be five weeks.— I believe there is no cause yet for serious anxiety, but we have sent for Sir H. Holland1 to aid our local Doctor.—

I sent yesterday A. Murray’s review:2 the speculative parts seem to me weak. I am not convinced that I have misrepresented Schiödte.—3 Have you seen Hopkins in the new Fraser?4 the public will I shd think, find it heavy. He will be dead against me as you prophesied; but he is generously civil to me personally. On his standard of proof, natural science would never progress; for without the making of theories, I am convinced there would be no observation.5 I have ordered the Future,6 & have begun reading the N. British,7 which so far strikes me as clever.

Phillips’ Lecture at Cambridge is to be published.8

All these reiterated attacks will tell heavily; there will be no more converts & probably some will go back. I hope you do not grow disheartened. I am determined to fight to the last.—   I hear, however, that the great Buckle highly approves of my Book.—9

I have had note from poor Blyth of Calcutta, who is much disappointed at hearing that L. Canning will not grant any money;10 so I much fear that all your great pains will be thrown away.11 Blyth says (& he in many respect a very good judge) that his ideas on Species are quite revolutionised.

I send Asa Gray’s letter,12 though it is really not worth sending; & do not return it till you have occasion to write; though if I were not the most honourable of men, I should jump at the excuse of getting a note from you & require his letter back soon.—

I have never attended to gestation of dog question,13 thinking it’s importance overrated, as the period is known to be variable in many of our domestic animals.— But I have begun to make some enquiries, & have got accurate return from excellent stud of Grey-hounds—period varies from 60— or 61 (according as 1st day reckoned)—to 65 or 66 days.

I do not think lowness of Rodents has any bearing on the question of fertility of Hybrids, as plants, & even Fuci, follow same general laws in these respects with animals.—

My dear Lyell | Ever yours | C. Darwin


Henry Holland, a distant relative of both CD and Emma Darwin, was a physician in ordinary to Queen Victoria. CD had consulted him on previous occasions when health problems in the family were particularly severe (see Correspondence vol. 4). The Darwins’ local doctor had diagnosed her illness as a form of typhus fever (letter to J. D. Hooker, 11 May [1860]).
Murray 1860a.
CD had queried this point after reading proof-sheets of Andrew Murray’s review (see letter to Andrew Murray, 28 April [1860]). CD had apparently just received a printed copy of the review. Murray criticised CD’s discussion of the improbability of the separate creation of blind insects in caves located on separate continents (Murray 1860a, p. 286): It is quite correct for him [CD] to say that we should expect close similarity in the caves in question, but it is incorrect to say that “this is not the case”; for the similarity in some is marvellously close; and it is also incorrect to say that Schiödte and others have remarked that “this is not the case.” The reference is to Schiödte 1849.
Hopkins 1860, which appeared in Fraser’s Magazine. William Hopkins, a mathematician and geologist, was renowned for his work in physical geology. He had corresponded with CD in the late 1840s (see Correspondence vol. 3).
Hopkins argued that CD’s theory should meet the same standards of evidence as physical theories.
A review of Origin appeared in the first number of the new and short-lived publication entitled The Future: a Monthly Journal of Research and Criticism in the Physical and Historical Sciences, April 1860, pp. 10–16. A copy of the review is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. A second article discussing Origin appeared in the May issue; a copy of this piece is also in the Pamphlet Collection. At the head, CD wrote: ‘By a Mr Berke’ and made a number of comments about the author’s arguments. Luke Burke was the editor of The Future.
CD had met Henry Thomas Buckle, the historian, at a party at the home of Hensleigh Wedgwood in 1858 (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 February [1858]). The source of information concerning Buckle’s remark has not been traced, but Buckle wrote favourably about Origin in his correspondence. In 1859 he told a friend that the book was ‘full of thought, and of original matter’ (Huth 1880, 2: 28).
Edward Blyth’s name had been put forward by CD for the post of naturalist to the forthcoming expedition to China (see Correspondence vol. 7, letters to W. H. Sykes, 20 December [1859], and to Charles Lyell, 29 [December 1859]). Charles John Canning had been made viceroy of India in 1858 after the East India Company transferred power to the British Crown. He objected to the appointment of a naturalist to the China expedition on the ground that scientific observations in a hostile country would entail personal danger. Despite Blyth’s assurances that he was ‘quite willing to encounter the danger’, no naturalist was appointed (Grote 1875).
Lyell also provided a testimonial for Blyth (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Charles Lyell, 29 [December 1859]).
The letter has not been found, but for CD’s reply, see the letter to Asa Gray, 22 May [1860].
Lyell questioned whether domestic breeds of dog were descended from one or several wild species and suggested that the question might be settled by comparing the gestation period in the domestic dog with that of the supposed aboriginal species. See Correspondence vol. 7, letters from Charles Lyell, 28 October 1859 and 21 November 1859. Lyell consulted Thomas Henry Huxley on the matter on 6 June 1860 (see Wilson ed. 1970, pp. 439–40).


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

[Duns, John.] 1860. On the Origin of species. North British Review 32: 455–86.

Grote, Arthur. 1875. Introduction, being a memoir of the late Mr Ed. Blyth, C.M.Z.S., and Hon. Member Asiatic Soc. of Bengal. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 43, pt 2 (extra number, August 1875): iii–xxiv.

Hopkins, William. 1860. Physical theories of the phenomena of life. Fraser’s Magazine 61: 739–52; 62: 74–90.

Huth, Alfred Henry. 1880. The life and writings of Henry Thomas Buckle. 2 vols. London.

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.

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


Comments on review of Origin by Andrew Murray [Proc. R. Soc. Edinburgh 4 (1860): 274–91] and views of William Hopkins on Origin ["Physical theories and the phenomena of life" Fraser’s Mag. 61 (1860): 739–52; 62 (1860): 74–90]. The attacks will tell heavily.

Mentions Blyth’s failure to receive appointment as naturalist to China expedition of 1860.

Encloses letter from Asa Gray.

Discusses gestation period in domesticated dogs.

Comments on hybrid fertility.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.214)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2820,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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