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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   3 October [1860]

15 Marine Parade | Eastbourne

Oct. 3d

My dear Lyell

Your last letter has interested me much in many ways.—

The Dog M.S is safe at Down.—

I enclose letter of Wyman, which touches on Brain—1 Wyman is mistaken in supposing that I did not know Cave Rat was an American form: I made special enquiries.2 He does not know that eye of Tucutucu was carefully dissected.—

With respect to Reviews by A. Gray: I thought of sending the Dialogue to Saturday Review in a week’s time or so, as they have lately discussed design.—3 I have sent the 2d or August Atlantic article to Annals & Mag. of N. History.4 The copy which you have I want to send to Pictet, as I told A. Gray I would, thinking from what he said he would like this to be done.—5 I doubt whether it will be possible to get October number reprinted in this country; so that I am in no hurry at all for this.—6

I had a letter a few weeks ago from Symonds on imperfection of G. Record, less clear & forcible than I expected. I answered him at length & very civilly, though I could hardly make out what he was driving at.7 He spoke about you in a way which it did me good to read.—

I am extremely glad that you like A. Gray’s Reviews. How generous & unselfish he had been in all his labours. Are you not struck by his metaphors & similes?—   I have told him he is a poet & not a lawyer.—

I should altogether doubt on turtles being converted into land tortoises on any one island:8 remember how closely similar tortoises are on all continents, as well as islands; they must have all descended from one ancient progenitor; including the gigantic tortoise of Himalaya.—

I think you must be cautious in not running to convenient doctrine that only one species out of very many ever varies.— Reflect on such cases as the fauna & Flora of Europe. N. America & Japan, which are so similar & yet which have a great majority of their species, either specifically distinct or forming well marked races. We must in such cases incline to belief that a multitude of species were once identically the same in all 3 countries when under warmer climate more in connection; & have varied in all three countries. I am inclined to believe that almost every species (as we see with nearly all our domestic productions) varies sufficiently for natural selection to pick out & accumulate new specific differences, under new organic & inorganic conditions of life; whenever a place is open in the polity of nature. But that looking to a long lapse of time & to the whole world or to large parts of the world, I believe only one or a few species of each large genus ultimately becomes victorious & leaves modified descendants. To give imaginary instance, the Jay has become modified in the 3 countries into (I believe) 3 or 4 species; but the Jay genus is not, apparently, so dominant a group as the crows, & in the long run probably all the Jays will be exterminated & be replaced perhaps by some modified crows.—

I merely give this illustration to show what seems to me probable. But oh what work there is before we shall understand the genealogy of organic beings.—

With respect to Apteryx: I know not enough of anatomy, but ask Dr. F.9 whether clavicle &c do not give attachment to some of muscles of respiration. If my views are at all correct; wing of Apteryx cannot be (p. 452 of Origin) a nascent organ, as these wings are useless. I dare not trust to memory, but I know I found whole sternum always reduced in size in all the fancy & confined pigeons, relatively to the same bones in the wild rock-pigeon: the keel was generally still further reduced relatively to the reduced length of sternum; but in some breeds it was in a most anomalous manner more prominent.—   I have got a lot of facts on reduction of organs of flight in pigeons, which took me weeks to work out, & which Huxley thought curious.—10

Yours are interesting remarks on Ammonites—Cuttle-fish & Hippurites.

I can hardly make up my mind to keep the Rabbits; but I will think about it.11 Isidore G. St. Hilaire evidently knows the case only second-hand.—12 Do not trust Sclangenweit (the Indian Brothers or some such name) about Yaks, if you come across their statement.13 Isidore, I have a very good opinion of.— Owen rather sneers at him; & I daresay he is not be trusted on Homologies.—14

I have no doubt there are many reputed species (laying on one side question of fertility) not so distinct as Negro & white man.— Ass & Pony? many foxes. &c.—

I am utterly ashamed & groan over my hand-writing. It was “Natural Preservation”.15 Natural persecution is what the author ought to suffer. It rejoices me that you do not object to the term. Hooker made same remark that it ought to have been “Variation & nat. selection”. Yet with domestic productions, when Selection is spoken of, variation is always implied.—   But I entirely agree with your & Hooker’s remark.—

Ever yours affect | C. Darwin

Have you begun regularly to write your Book on Antiquity of Man?—

I do not agree with your remark that I make N. Selection do too much work.— You will perhaps reply, that every man rides his Hobby-horse to death; & that I am in this galloping state.


Letter from Jeffries Wyman, [c. 15] September 1860. The section of the letter that discussed the brain is now missing. See also following letter.
See letter from Jeffries Wyman, [c. 15] September 1860 and the following letter. CD had asked James Dwight Dana in 1856 whether the blind rats and other fauna from the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky were American in type. Dana responded by providing information given by Louis Agassiz, who had discussed the cave fauna in Agassiz 1851a. See Correspondence vol. 6, letter to J. D. Dana, 14 July [1856], and letter from J. D. Dana, 8 September 1856.
The second part of [Gray] 1860b.
Asa Gray discussed François Jules Pictet de la Rive’s critique of Origin (Pictet de la Rive 1860) in the second part of [Gray] 1860b.
The third and final part of [Gray] 1860b was not reprinted in an English periodical.
Neither letter has been found. William Samuel Symonds, rector of Pendock, Worcestershire, was a well-known geologist and a friend of Lyell’s. Lyell had received an invitation to visit him in October 1860 (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881 2: 337–8).
CD gave the results of his measurements of pigeon skeletons in Variation 1: 162–79. He lent his manuscript on pigeons to Thomas Henry Huxley in January 1860 so that Huxley could use it in preparing his lecture to the Royal Institution on 10 February (T. H. Huxley 1860a). See Correspondence vol. 7, letters to T. H. Huxley, 13 December [1859] and 16 December [1859].
CD hinted to Lyell that he might be prepared to conduct cross-breeding experiments between hares and rabbits (letter to Charles Lyell, 28 [September 1860]).
The German naturalists Robert, Adolph, and Hermann Rudolph Alfred Schlagintweit undertook a scientific expedition to India and Tibet between 1854 and 1857. CD corresponded with Robert Schlagintweit about the fertility of the offspring of a cross between a yak and a cow in 1857. See Correspondence vol. 6, letter from Robert Schlagintweit, 25 September 1857.
It has not been possible to establish CD’s source for his comment about Richard Owen.
Lyell had cut out and sent to CD an illegible phrase from the letter to Charles Lyell, 28 [September 1860].


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

Lewes, George Henry. 1860. Studies in animal life. Cornhill Magazine 1: 61–74, 198–207, 283–95, 438–47, 598–607, 682–90.

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.

Pictet de la Rive, François Jules. 1860. Sur l’origine de l’espèce par Charles Darwin. Bibliothèque universelle. Revue suisse et étrangère n.s. 7: 233–55.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Comments on letter from Jeffries Wyman.

Discusses reprinting reviews by Asa Gray.

Mentions views of W. S. Symonds on the geological record.

Discusses descent of turtles and tortoises.

The universality of variation.

Notes only a few species leave modified descendants.

Discusses Apteryx.

Variation among pigeons.

Comments on fertility among hybrids.

Does not agree that he makes natural selection do too much work.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.230)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2935,” accessed on 25 October 2021,

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