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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   20 [June 1860]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Lyell

I send Blyth—1 it is a dreadful hand-writing—the passage is on p. 4.—   In former note he told me he feared there was hardly chance of getting money for Chinese Expedition & spoke of your kindness.—

Many thanks for your long & interesting letter. I wonder, admire & thank you for your patience in writing so much.—2 I rather demur to Deinosaurus not having “free will”, as surely as we have.— I demur, also, to your putting Huxleys “force & matter” in same category with natural selection. The latter may of course be quite false view, but surely it is not getting beyond our depths to first causes.—

It is truly very remarkable that the gestation of hound shd. vary so much, whilst that of man does not.3 It may be from multiple origins.—   The eggs from Musk & common Duck take intermediate period in hatching. But I shd. rather look at it, as one of ten-thousand cases, which we cannot explain—namely when one part or function varies in one species & not in another.—

Hooker has told me nothing about his explanation of few Arctic forms; I knew the fact before.—   I had speculated on what I presume from what you say, his explanation; but there must have been at all times an Arctic region.—   I fd. speculation got too complex, as it seemed to me, to be worth following out.—

I have been doing some most interesting work with Orchids.—   Talk of adaptation in Woodpeckers—some of the Orchids beat it.— I showed the case to Elizabeth Wedgwood4 & her remark was “now you have upset your own book, for you won’t persuade me that this could be effected by nat. selection”.—

Yours affect | C. Darwin


The letter from Edward Blyth has not been found. CD had enclosed a copy of a passage from it in the letter to Charles Lyell, 14 [June 1860]. Lyell had apparently asked to see the whole letter.
Sarah Elizabeth (Elizabeth) Wedgwood was Emma Darwin’s older sister. She lived in Hartfield, Sussex.


Blyth’s effort to raise money for a Chinese expedition.

Comments on free-will in animals.

Says natural selection is not in the same category with Huxley’s "force" and "matter".

Discusses remarkable variation in period of gestation in dogs and ducks.

Discusses Arctic flora.

Has been working on orchids; they beat woodpeckers in adaptation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.219)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2838,” accessed on 21 March 2023,

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