skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   28 August [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

Aug 28th

My dear Lyell.

As Emma is writing to Lady Lyell,1 I will add a few line; though I have not much to say. I was in London lately for a couple of days,2 & heard a piece of news, which if you have not heard of it, you will be sincerely sorry to hear. Sir G. Grey on his passage out,3 having some suspicion, after he was well engaged at whist, suddenly went to his wife’s cabin & found her in bed with Capt. (or Admiral?) Keppell!4 The latter has staid at Rio & what a despatch he must have written to explain to the Admiralty why he did not take on the Governor to the Cape. What a wreck of happiness for poor Sir George. No doubt she was formerly guilty in N. Zealand, when that examination about some Officer took place.—

The only scientific man I saw in London was Falconer, who goes to Sicily in October.5 He was very full about a tiny new species of Elephant from Malta not much larger than a calf!

The only Review worth notice, since I wrote is an excellent argumentative one in the August Monthly atlantic by Asa Gray.6 He is assuredly a first-rate arguer & most completely understands the subject. I have been well abused in a Catholic Journal;7 but the writer assures his readers that the progress of Science does not in the least shake the authority of Moses. I was very glad to hear in London that the Rajah Sir J. Brooke is about again & dining out,—a sort of resurrection.—8 I have been getting on a bit better with my work lately & to day finished with Dogs;—& it is rather a curious subject; & I am confirmed in my belief that they have descended from several wild stocks.—

I sent you the Athenæum & Quarterly Review, which I hope you received.—

Farewell. I fear that you will not be settled in London for some considerable time.—   Ever yours | C. Darwin


Emma Darwin’s letter to Mary Elizabeth Lyell, dated 28 August [1860], is printed in Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 177.
Emma Darwin’s diary records that CD went to London on 21 August 1860.
George Grey, who had formerly served as the governor of South Australia, of New Zealand, and of the Cape Colony, was reinstated as governor of the Cape in 1859 after having been recalled from the post a few months earlier. He was on his way back to Cape Town from England (Aust. dict. biog.).
Eliza Lucy Grey, née Spencer, had married Grey in 1839. CD refers to Henry Keppel, the third son of the Earl of Albermarle and admiral of the fleet. Keppel’s invalid wife, Katherine Louisa Keppel, had died in 1859. Although a rumour circulated in London that the pair had been caught in the act of adultery, Grey had in fact only discovered notes indicating a romance. See Dalton 1974.
Hugh Falconer intended to examine sites in Sicily where fossils had been found by Francesco Anca.
[Gray] 1860b, pp. 229–39.
CD probably refers to the Rambler, which carried a review of Origin in the March 1860 issue, pp. 361–76. According to the Wellesley index 2: 779, the review was by the editor, Richard Simpson.
James Brooke, Rajah of Saráwak, had sent CD specimens of domestic animals from the Malay Archipelago (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 11 February [1857]). Brooke was in England from 1857 to November 1860.


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dalton, B. J. 1974. Sir George Grey and the Keppel affair. Historical Studies 16 (1974–5): 192–215.

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.

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.


The adultery of Lady [Harriet Spencer] Grey and Captain Keppell.

A new species of elephant discovered by Hugh Falconer.

Comments on excellent review by Asa Gray [Atlantic Monthly 6 (1860): 229–39].

Still believes dogs descended from several wild stocks.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.224)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2900,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

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