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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   5 [October 1860]

15 Marine Parade | Eastbourne

Friday 5th

My dear Lyell

I have two notes to thank you for, & I return Wollaston’s.1 It has always seemed to me rather strange that Forbes, Wollaston & Co, should argue from presence of allied & not identical species in islands for former continuity of land.2 They argue I suppose from the species being allied in different regions of the same continent, though specifically distinct. But I think one might on the creation doctrine argue with equal force in directly reverse manner; & say that as species are so often markedly distinct yet allied on islands, all our continents existed as islands first, & their inhabitants were first created on these islands, & since became mingled together so as not to be so distinct as they now generally are on Islands.

The subject of Bats is washed out of my head: I got Mr Mason3 to collect in Madeira & the species turned out to be European: I cannot remember about Palma; but I gave all to Mr Tomes of Welford4 & he could tell you: I know not where to look amongst my notes; it would be an awful hunt for me. I failed to get the Azores species.—

I had heard nothing of the sales of “Origin” for months, & am much pleased to hear that the sale continues; this surprises me.—

I have never received back the 2d. or August Atlantic Article;5 perhaps you sent it to Down. I had three copies; one gone to Annals; one at home marked; & the third was meant for Pictet according to promise to A. Gray;6 but it cannot be helped if lost; I think pamphets are sometimes lost by Post.—

You have, also, the Theological Dialogue out of Silliman’s Journal;7 I shd. be sorry if that is lost, as I have no other copy: it was sent with the October Atlantic number.— 8

Falconer is hard upon Isidore Geoffroy, as I do not suppose anyone, except F. himself has the facts correct.— 9 When I get home I will look about St. Helena: it was this passage that I believe I remembered. I cannot conceive how he can conjecture about number of plants exterminated. The island was woody in comparatively late periods: see my Journal for some facts.—10

My fun with Drosera is getting rather poor fun; for my experiments are getting all perverse & crooked; & yet I cannot stop & am wasting time shamefully.—

Ever yours affect | C. Darwin

Etty still, we think, gains a little strength.

Do you know that Bronn has Chapt. of objections at end of his Translation;11 Miss Ludwig has translated it for me;12 & I could lend Translation, if you cared to see it.—


The letter from Thomas Vernon Wollaston to Lyell has not been found. They had corresponded regularly about Wollaston’s study of the insect and mollusc fauna of Madeira and the Canary Islands (see Wilson ed. 1970).
Edward Forbes and Wollaston supported the idea that former land-bridges could account for the modern distribution patterns of animals and plants. For CD’s discussions with Lyell about this theory, see Correspondence vols. 3 and 6.
Probably Nathaniel Haslope Mason, who collected plants on Madeira between 1855 and 1857 (R. Desmond 1977).
Robert Fisher Tomes was an authority on bats.
CD had sent Lyell his copy of the second of Asa Gray’s articles on Origin in the Atlantic Monthly ([Gray] 1860b, pp. 229–39). See letter to Charles Lyell, 23 [September 1860].
CD told Gray of his wish to send a copy of the second part of [Gray] 1860b to François Jules Pictet de la Rive in the letter to Asa Gray, 10 September [1860].
The third part of [Gray] 1860b. See letter to Charles Lyell, 26 [September 1860].
Hugh Falconer and Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. See letter to Charles Lyell, 3 October [1860].
See letter from Charles Lyell, [after 3 October 1860]. CD discussed the history of changes in the vegetation on St Helena in Journal of researches 2d ed., pp. 488–9.
Bronn trans. 1860, chap. 15. See preceding letter.
Camilla Ludwig was the Darwin children’s governess from 1860 to 1865. The translation she made of Bronn’s criticism of Origin has not been found.


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

Desmond, Ray. 1977. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists, including plant collectors and botanical artists. 3d ed. London: Taylor and Francis.

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

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.


Discusses views of T. V. Wollaston concerning island species related to those of mainland; possible land connection between islands and mainland.

Comments on bats of Atlantic islands.

Plant extinction on St Helena.

Experiments on Drosera.

Bronn’s objections [to the Origin] at end of his translation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.231)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2938,” accessed on 26 February 2021,

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