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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Dwight Dana   30 July [1860]

Down Bromley Kent [Hartfield]

July 30th

My dear Sir

I received several weeks ago your note telling me that you could not visit England, which I sincerely regretted, as I should most heartily have liked to have made your personal acquaintance.—1 You gave me an improved, but not very good, account of your health. I shd. at some time be grateful for a line to tell me how you are.—

We have had a miserable summer owing to a terribly long & severe illness of my eldest girl, who improves slightly but is still in a precarious condition.—

I have been able to do nothing in science of late. My kind friend Asa Gray often writes to me & tells me of the warm discussions on origin of species in the U. States.—   Whenever you are strong enough to read it, I know you will be dead against me, but I know equally well that your opposition will be liberal & philosophical. And this is a good deal more than I can say of all my opponents in this country. I have not yet seen Agassiz’s attack;2 but I hope to find it at home, when I return in few days, for I have been for several weeks away from home on my daughter’s account. Prof. Silliman sent me an extremely kind message by Asa Gray that your Journal wd. be open to a reply by me;3 I cannot decide till I see it, but on principle I have resolved to avoid answering anything, as it consumes much time, often temper, & I have said my say in the Origin.—   No one person understands my views & has defended them so well as A. Gray;—though he does not by any means go all the way with me.—   There was much discussion on subject at B. Assoc. at Oxford; & I had many defenders & my side seems (for I was not there) almost to have got the best of the battle.—   Your correspondent & my neighbour J. Lubbock goes on working at such spare time as he has.—

This is an egotistical note; but I have not seen a naturalist for months. Most sincerely & deeply do I hope that this note may find you almost recovered.

Pray believe me | Yours very truly | C. Darwin


Dana was convalescing in Italy following a breakdown in his health (DAB). CD had sent Dana a presentation copy of Origin (see Correspondence vol.8, Appendix III and Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Dana, 11 November [1859]). For CD’s concern about Dana’s health and his wish that Dana should not read Origin until he was well enough, see ibid., letter to J. D. Dana, 30 December [1859].
Louis Agassiz criticised CD’s views in the third volume of his Contributions to the natural history of the United States of America (Agassiz 1857–62). The discussion, taken from advance sheets of the volume, was printed in the American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 30 (1860): 142–55; it was also printed in Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 6 (1860): 219–32. There is an annotated copy of the American Journal of Science and Arts article in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. For CD’s opinion of Agassiz’s ‘attack’, see the letter to T. H. Huxley, 8 August [1860].
Benjamin Silliman Jr, professor of chemistry at Yale University, was Dana’s brother-in-law. He and Dana co-edited the American Journal of Science and Arts.


Agassiz, Louis. 1857–62. Contributions to the natural history of the United States of America. 4 vols. Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown & Company. London: Trübner.

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

DAB: Dictionary of American biography. Under the auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies. 20 vols., index, and 10 supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; Simon & Schuster Macmillan. London: Oxford University Press; Humphrey Milford. 1928–95.

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.


Has been able to do nothing in science of late due to illness [of Henrietta].

When JDD reads Origin, CD knows he will be opposed to it, but he will be liberal and philosophical, which is more than he can say for his English opponents.

Has not yet seen L. Agassiz’s attack, but in principle avoids answering.

No one understands Origin so well as Asa Gray.

At BAAS meeting at Oxford, CD’s side seems almost to have got the best of the battle.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Dwight Dana
Sent from
Hartfield Down letterhead
Source of text
Yale University Library: Manuscripts and Archives (Dana Family Papers (MS 164) Series 1, Box 2, folder 44)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2882,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

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