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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   8 October [1860]

15 Marine Parade | Eastbourne

Oct 8.

My Dear Lyell

I send the Translation of Bronn:1 the first part of Ch. with generalities & praise is not translated. There are some good hits. He makes an apparently, & in part truly, telling case against me, that I cannot explain why one Rat has longer tail & another longer ears &c. But he seems to muddle in assuming that these parts did not all vary together or one part so insensibly before the other as to be in fact contemporaneous.2 I might ask the Creationist whether he thinks these differences in the two Rats of any use, or as standing in some relation from laws of growth; & if he admits this, Selection might come into play. He who thinks that God created animals unlike for mere sport or variety, like man fashions his clothes will not admit any force in my argumentum ad hominem.—

Bronn blunders about my supposing several Glacial Periods,—whether or no such ever did occur. He blunders about my supposing that development goes on at same rate in all parts of world. I presume that he has misunderstood this from the supposed migration into all regions of the more dominant forms.—

I have ordered Dr. Bree & will lend it you, if you like, & if it turns out good.3

I have written to Down about the 2 missing Reviews.4

I do strongly believe in SE. & S.W. corners of Australia having been Islands; & the S.W corner the oldest & most typical. Hooker has speculated on this in his Introduction.—5 So has Jukes.6 (By the way capital answer by Jukes in Saturday’s Athenæum to Sir — James’ wild speculations on change of earth’s axis).7 So did I many long years ago in little Review in Annals & Mag. of N. History on Waterhouse’s Mammalia.—8

I am very glad that I misunderstood you about species not having the capacity to vary, though in fact few do give birth to new species. It seems that I am very apt to misunderstand you; I suppose I am always fancying objections.—   Your case of Red Indian shows me that we agree entirely.—9

Miss L. says Bronn is very difficult German.—10

I had not heard of the Bovey Coal Plants.—   I hope Bunbury will undertake them.11 Will Bunbury’s new position interfere much with his Science?12

Farewell | My dear Lyell | Ever yours | C. Darwin

I do not know who Bree is. I fancy he is son of old Revd. Bree, a good miscellaneous observer of habits of all creatures.—& Botanist.13 I had letter yesterday from Thwaites of Ceylon who was much opposed to me.14 He now says “I find that the more familiar one becomes to your views in connexion with the various phenomena of nature, the more they commend themselves to my mind”.—


The final chapter of Bronn trans. 1860, containing Heinrich Georg Bronn’s criticisms of Origin, had been translated for CD by Camilla Ludwig. See letter to Charles Lyell, 5 [October 1860].
Enclosed with the letter is a printed advertisement for Bree 1860. Charles Robert Bree was a physician at the Essex and Colchester Hospital and a strong opponent of CD’s views. There is an annotated copy of Bree 1860 in the Darwin Library–CUL.
[Gray] 1860c and the second part of [Gray] 1860b. See letter to Charles Lyell, 5 [October 1860].
Hooker 1859, p. xxviii. CD had discussed this point with Joseph Dalton Hooker (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 24–5 November [1858]).
Henry James, director-general of the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, had written a letter to the Athenæum, 25 August 1860, pp. 256–7, suggesting that displacement in the earth’s mass resulting from the elevation of mountain ranges may in the past have caused shifts in the earth’s axis of rotation. He suggested that these displacements produced ‘great and extraordinary changes’ in climate. Joseph Beete Jukes replied in the Athenæum, 8 September 1860, pp. 322–3, pointing out that the mass of the largest mountain ranges was minimal compared with that of the equatorial bulge of the earth. The controversy over this point continued through September, drawing in other physical geologists. Jukes published a second letter in the Athenæum, 6 October 1860, p. 451, criticising the catastrophist implications of James’s view.
CD’s review of the first volume of George Robert Waterhouse’s book (Waterhouse 1846–8) appeared in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History 19 (1847): 53–6 (Collected papers 1: 214–17).
Camilla Ludwig, the Darwin family governess. See n. 1, above.
A large collection of fossil plants was discovered at Bovey Tracey, Devonshire, by William Pengelly early in 1860. Charles James Fox Bunbury, Lyell’s brother-in-law and a specialist on fossil flora, may have considered undertaking their examination. In November 1860, he wrote that he was studying a German paper on the ‘fossil plants of the brown coal which Charles Lyell lent me’ (Bunbury ed. 1891–3, Middle life 3: 231). In the event, Oswald Heer, the Swiss palaeobotanist, undertook the description of the Bovey Tracey plants (Heer 1861). See Correspondence vol. 9.
Bunbury’s father, Henry Edward Bunbury, died in April 1860. On his death Charles Bunbury became 8th baronet and inherited two large estates in Cambridgeshire. See Bunbury ed. 1891–3, Middle life 3: 219–20.
CD probably refers to William Thomas Bree, rector of Allesley, Warwickshire, who was not a close relation of C. R. Bree. However, he may refer to Robert Francis Bree, curate of Saint Giles’s, Camberwell, who collected plants and was a fellow of the Linnean Society (R. Desmond 1994); he was C. R. Bree’s uncle. See n. 3, above.
The letter from George Henry Kendrick Thwaites has not been found.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Bree, Charles Robert. 1860. Species not transmutable, nor the result of secondary causes. Being a critical examination of Mr Darwin’s work entitled ‘Origin and variation of species’. London: Groombridge & Sons. Edinburgh: Maclachlan & Stewart.

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

Jukes, Joseph Beete. 1850. A sketch of the physical structure of Australia, so far as it is present known. London. [Vols. 7,8]

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.

Waterhouse, George Robert. 1846–8. A natural history of the Mammalia. 2 vols. London: H. Baillière.


Encloses advertisement [for C. R. Bree, Species not transmutable (1860)].

Discusses Bronn’s chapter of criticisms.

Mentions variation in rats.

Has ordered book by Bree.

Discusses suggestion that southern corners of Australia may once have been islands.

Mentions "wild speculations" about change in earth’s axes.

CL’s ideas on variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.232)
Physical description
6pp enc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2942,” accessed on 21 October 2020,

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