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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   1 November [1860]1

15 Marine Parade | Eastbourne

Nov. 1st

My dear Huxley

Your note has been wonderfully interesting. Your term “pithecoid man” is a whole paper & theory in itself.2 How I hope the skull of the new Macrauchenia has come:3 it is grand.—

I return Hooker’s letter, with very many thanks. The glacial action on Lebanon is particularly interesting considering its position between Europe & Himalaya:4 I get more & more convinced that my doctrine of mundane glacial period is correct, & that it is the most important of all late phenomena with respect to distribution of plants & animals.—5

I hope your Review progresses favourably.6

I am exhausted & not well so write briefly; for we have had 9 days of as much misery as man can endure.7 My poor daughter has suffered pitiably, & night & day required three persons to support her. The crisis of extreme danger is over & she is rallying surprisingly, but the Doctors are yet doubtful of ultimate issue. But the suffering was so pitiable I almost got to wish to see her die. She is easy now. When she will be fit to travel home we know not.—

I most sincerely hope that Mrs. Huxley keeps up pretty well.8 The work which most men have to do is a blessing to them in such cases as yours.—

God Bless you | C. Darwin

Sir H. Holland came here to see her & was wonderfully kind.—9


Dated by the reference to Henrietta Emma Darwin’s illness (see n. 7, below).
Pithecoid: ‘resembling in form or pertaining to the apes, esp. the higher or anthropoid apes’ (OED). Huxley was apparently writing his essay on the zoological relations of man with the lower animals (T. H. Huxley 1861b), at the beginning of which he touched on the implications of demonstrating that humankind had a ‘pithecoid pedigree’ (T. H. Huxley 1861b, p. 67). Huxley’s essay attacked Richard Owen’s view that there were great anatomical differences between the higher apes and human beings. Huxley concluded that ‘the Quadrumana differ less from man than they do from one another; and that, hence, the separation of Homo and Pithecus in distinct sub-classes, while Pithecus and Cynocephalus are retained in one order, is utterly inconsistent with the principle of any classification of the Mammalia by cerebral characters.’ (T. H. Huxley 1861b, p. 84).
Huxley read a paper at a meeting of the Geological Society on 21 November 1860 on some vertebrate remains discovered in Bolivia by David Forbes (T. H. Huxley 1861a). Huxley described a new species of Macrauchenia that was distinct from that described by Owen in Fossil Mammalia, pp. 35–56, on the basis of bones collected by CD during the Beagle voyage (see Correspondence vol. 2). The remains found by Forbes included a portion of the skull and fragments of teeth; no part of Macrauchenia skull had previously been discovered. Owen had found the Beagle specimens to have a combination of perissodactyl and artiodactyl characters, but assigned the genus to the perissodactyl Pachydermata. Huxley found characteristics of both divisions in Forbes’s skull and tooth specimens and remarked that Macrauchenia had ‘strong claims to be considered an example of what has been termed “a generalized type’” (T. H. Huxley 1861a, p. 84). For a discussion of the history of the classification of Macrauchenia, see Rachootin 1985.
Joseph Dalton Hooker was travelling in the Middle East. He and his party ascended the mountains of Lebanon before visiting Syria and Palestine (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 528–33). In a letter to his brother-in-law Charles James Fox Bunbury apparently written in January 1861, Charles Lyell wrote (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 329): Did I tell you of Hooker’s ascent of Lebanon, 11,000 feet high, and his finding, though now there is no perpetual snow there, old glacier moraines descending 4,000 feet down from the summit, of which he has made some very graphic sketches? All the cedars of Lebanon grow exclusively on these moraines.
See Origin, pp. 365–82. CD had discussed the theory at length with Hooker over a number of years. See Correspondence vols. 5 and 6.
CD refers to the Natural History Review, of which Huxley had recently become senior editor.
Emma Darwin recorded in her diary on 29 October 1860 that Henrietta Darwin’s ‘Sickness ended.’
Henrietta Anne Huxley, who was pregnant with her fourth child, was still in deep grief over the death of their oldest child Noel in September (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 216, 222–4). See letter to T. H. Huxley, 18 September [1860].
The London physician Henry Holland was called to Eastbourne to examine Henrietta Darwin on 29 October 1860 (Emma Darwin’s diary).


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

Fossil Mammalia: Pt 1 of The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle … during the years 1831 to 1836. By Richard Owen. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1839–43.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

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.

Rachootin, Stan Philip. 1985. Owen and Darwin reading a fossil: Macrauchenia in a boney light. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).


THH’s term "Pithecoid Man" is a theory in itself.

CD is convinced that his doctrine of a mundane period of glaciation is correct.

Henrietta’s serious illness.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 141)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2972,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

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