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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [20? July 1860]1

Tunbridge Wells

P.S. I have just read Quarterly R.2 It is uncommonly clever; picks out with skill all the most conjectural parts, & brings forwards well all difficulties.—   It quizzes me quite splendidly by quoting the Anti-Jacobin versus my grandfather.—3 You are not alluded to; nor, strange to say, Huxley, & I can plainly see here & there Owen’s hand.—4 The concluding pages will make Lyell shake in his shoes. By Jove if he sticks to us he will be a real Hero.—5

Good night—your well-quizzed, but not sorrowful & affectionate friend. C.D.

I can see there has been some queer tampering with the Review—for a page has been cut out & reprinted.—6


Although the note was endorsed ‘July 23/60’ and then corrected in the same hand to read ‘July 26/60’, it seems likely that both dates are incorrect. The note was probably written before the letters to T. H. Huxley, 20 July [1860], and to John Lubbock, 20 July [1860]. It could possibly have been enclosed with the preceding letter, but then CD would have had little time to obtain and read the review to which he refers. The Quarterly Review in question (see n. 2, below) was published on Wednesday, 18 July 1860 (Publisher’s Circular, 17 July 1860, p. 339).
The July issue of the Quarterly Review carried an anonymous review of Origin. The author was Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford (Wilberforce 1874; Wellesley index 1: 743). CD’s annotated offprint of the review is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Errors noted on an erratum sheet in the Quarterly Review have been corrected in the offprint. CD wrote in ink at the head: ‘Bishop of Oxford aided by Owen & Murchison(?)’. He refers to Richard Owen and Roderick Impey Murchison.
CD refers to the following passage in the review ([Wilberforce] 1860, pp. 254–5): We do not think that, with all his matchless ingenuity, Mr. Darwin has found any instance which so well illustrates his own theory of the improved descendant under the elevating influences of natural selection exterminating the progenitor whose specialities he has exaggerated as he himself affords us in this work. For if we go back two generations we find the ingenious grandsire of the author of the ‘Origin of Species’ speculating on the same subject, and almost in the same manner with his more daring descendant … Many of our readers will remember the humour with which Frere and Canning, in the ‘Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin,’ exposed these philosophical arguments of the last generation. The reference is to ‘Loves of the triangles’ a parody of Erasmus Darwin’s ‘Loves of the plants’, published in Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin (1799), edited by John Hookham Frere, George Canning, and others.
The reviewer quoted extensively from the works of Richard Owen, whose philosophy he found ‘just as much truer to nature as it is to revelation than all these speculations of the transmutationist.’ ([Wilberforce] 1860, p. 260).
Charles Lyell’s attack on transmutation in his Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1830–3) was mentioned in the concluding pages of the review: ‘We trust that he [CD] is mistaken in believing that he may count Sir C. Lyell as one of his converts … no man has been more distinct and more logical in the denial of the transmutation of species than Sir C. Lyell, and that not in the infancy of his scientific life, but in its full vigour and maturity.’ ([Wilberforce] 1860, p. 263). Several of Lyell’s remarks against transmutation were quoted.
It appears that pp. 251–2 were cut out and a replacement leaf stuck onto the remaining stub, but it is not known why this was done.


Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.

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.

Wellesley index: The Wellesley index to Victorian periodicals 1824–1900. Edited by Walter E. Houghton et al. 5 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1966–89.

[Wilberforce, Samuel.] 1860. [Review of Origin.] Quarterly Review 108: 225–64.

Wilberforce, Samuel. 1874. Essays contributed to the "Quarterly Review". 2 vols. London.


CD’s reaction to review of the Origin [by Samuel Wilberforce] in Quarterly Review [see 2881].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 33a
Physical description
ALS 1p inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2875,” accessed on 30 September 2022,

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