skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. G. Bronn   14 July [1860]1

Down. | Bromley Kent. [Hartfield]2

July 14th.

Dear & Honoured Sir.

On my return home after an absence of some time I found the Translation of the third part of the Origin,3 and I have been delighted to see a final chapter of Criticisms by yourself.4 I have read the first few paragraphs & final paragraph and am perfectly contented, indeed more than contented, with the generous & candid spirit with which you have considered my views— You speak with too much praise of my work.— 5 I shall of course carefully read the whole chapter; but though I can read descriptive books like Gäertners pretty easily,6 when any reasoning comes in I find German excessively difficult to understand.7 At some future time I should very much like to hear how my book has been received in Germany & I most sincerely hope M. Schweizerbart will not lose money by the publication—8 Most of the Reviews have been bitterly opposed to me in England; yet I have made some converts & several naturalists who would not believe in a word of it, are now coming slightly round & admit that Natural Selection may have done something. This gives me hopes that more will ultimately come round to a certain extent to my views.

I shall ever consider myself deeply indebted to you for the immense service & honour which you have conferred on me in making the excellent translation of my book.

Pray believe me with most sincere respect | Dear Sir. | Yours gratefully.9 | Charles Darwin.


The year is given by the reference to Bronn’s translation of Origin into German (Bronn trans. 1860).
CD visited Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood in Hartfield, Sussex, from 10 July 1860 to 2 August (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
The third and final part of the German translation of Origin was published on 11 June 1860 (Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel 27 (1860): 1166). The first and second parts had appeared on 4 April and 2 May.
CD had suggested to Bronn at the outset that he might like to add his own comments about CD’s theory to the translation of Origin (letter to H. G. Bronn, 4 February [1860]). Bronn did so in a concluding fifteenth chapter entitled ‘Schlusswort des Übersetzers’. CD’s copy of the translation in the Darwin Library–CUL is incomplete: it lacks pages 465–520, including most of the fourteenth chapter as well as Bronn’s concluding remarks. Associated with the book are two pages of notes by CD headed ‘Bronn’s criticism for New Edit of Origin’. For a transcript of these notes, see letter to H. G. Bronn, 5 October [1860].
Bronn prefaced his remarks with praise for CD, calling him ‘a genuine naturalist who regards in an ingenious and penetrating manner old facts that he has collected and considered for twenty years’. He went on to say (Bronn trans. 1860, p. 495): Tief in seinem Gegenstand versenkt, von der Wahrheit der gewonnenen Resultate unerschütterlich überzeugt, trägt er sie mit so bewältigender Klarheit vor, beleuchtet er sie mit so viel Geist, vertheidigt er sie mit so scharfer Logik, zieht er so wichtige Schlüsse daraus, dass wir, was auch unsre bisherige Überzeugung gewesen seyn mag, uns eben so wenig ihrem Eindrucke entziehen, als unsre Anerkennung der Aufrichtigkeit versagen können, womit er selbst alle Einreden, die man ihm entgegen-halten kann, herbeisucht und nach ihrem Gewichte anerkennt. [Deeply immersed in his objective, unshakably convinced of the truth of his results, he writes with such overpowering clarity, elucidates his material with so much spirit, defends it with such sharp logic, draws from it such important conclusions, that we ourselves, whatever our previous views may have been, are just as little able to avoid the impression that they make on us as we are able to deny our appreciation of the sincerity with which he himself seeks out and acknowledges, according to their importance, all objections that can oppose him.]
The reference is to Gärtner 1844 and 1849, both of which CD had carefully studied in the preparation of his work on species (see Correspondence vols. 5 and 6).
CD first began to learn German in 1839 (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to Caroline Wedgwood, [27 October 1839]). According to Francis Darwin, CD read German slowly and with great effort. ‘He himself learnt German simply by hammering away with a dictionary; he would say that his only way was to read a sentence a great many times over, and at last the meaning occurred to him … In spite of his want of grammar, he managed to get on wonderfully with German, and the sentences that he failed to make out were generally really difficult ones.’ (LL 1: 126).
The German translation of Origin was published by E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart.
The copyist wrote ‘faithfully’, which has been corrected to read ‘gratefully’ in an unidentified hand.


Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel: Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel und für die mit ihm verwandten Geschäftszweige herausgegeben von den Deputirten des Vereins der Buchhändler zu Leipzig. Leipzig: Vereins der Buchhändler. 1834–80.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1844. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Befruchtungsorgane der vollkommeneren Gewächse und über die natürliche und künstliche Befruchtung durch den eigenen Pollen. Pt 1 of Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Befruchtung der vollkommeneren Gewächse. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

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.


Responds to HGB’s critique of Origin [appended to German translation of Origin]. Comments on English reviews.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Heinrich Georg Bronn
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2867,” accessed on 29 January 2020,

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