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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Lubbock   28 November [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 28

My dear Lubbock

Your remarks seem to me admirably good, & I am sure I shd. have thought so, if I had never heard your name & whether or no they concurred with my notions.—2 I thank you heartily & am pleased at the high compliment you pay the Origin.—3 Such remarks as yours, (I do not mean the compliment!) I feel sure are the true way of advancing our general belief on Species; viz by showing that several subordinate questions are illustrated by our view. Such remarks as yours just make the difference whether a memoir does or does not advance Biology. And how few naturalists deal in them!

Now for a few details. Your remarks on links in classification seem to me excellent.4 I am especially glad to see your observations on variability of secondary sexual characters:5 this is important likewise in the practical classificatory work of naturalists.

There is misprint & omission of word in one paragraph. p. 168.—6

I have omitted one remark on p. 167 (7 l. from top): would it not be well to change “although” into “and”? for when one first reads sentence it seems as if you thought that it was a rule that aberrant forms shd. be rich in genera & species,—which would be almost a contradiction in terms.7 Your following good remarks show that this is not meant.—

With respect to domestication & variability;8 I do not think your sentences clear; in fact I can hardly understand the last.— They want clearing, altering & amplifying.—   Possibly it may aid you just to say to what conclusion I arrived on this subject.— Changes in the conditions of life (at least abrupt changes) certainly tend to induce some degree of sterility: they likewise certainly tend to cause variability in successive generations; but I could never satisfy myself, whether at same time they caused both; whether they caused either sterility or variability; or whether variability ensued after the sterility ceased. Many of our domestic productions are more fertile than the aboriginal forms in the wild state & are more variable; so that there is no necessary relation between variability & lessened fertility. I am rather inclined to view sterility & variability, as alternatives produced by changes of conditions.** But this again relates only to when a being is first subjected to a considerably change from its natural to domestic conditions.— It is an obscure question, & you had better be cautious.— Thanks for Annals & Owen9

I cannot find after search Millepora conplanata; but you have I think the other Millepora; & they differ only in growing in great masses.—

Ever yours | C. Darwin

P.S.** | As far as I remember all that I have said in Origin is that changed conditions of life in some inexplicable way strongly affect the generative system, as shown by the induced tendency to sterility; & therefore one need not be surprised at other & lesser changes of conditions so far affecting the reproductive system, that the offspring are produced not quite like their parents.—

In your last sentence I cannot see why species which are partially variable are most likely to lose their fertility.—

Heaven knows whether you will be able to decipher or understand my scribble—


The year is given by the reference to Lubbock’s paper on the Entomostraca (Lubbock 1862), which was read in June 1860 (see n. 2, below).
Lubbock read a paper on the oceanic Entomostraca collected by T. Toynbee in 1858 and 1859 at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London on 7 June 1860. The paper was published in 1862 (Lubbock 1862). Lubbock appears to have sent CD a proof copy of his article. There is an annotated offprint of the final version in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Lubbock referred to Origin as an ‘admirable work’ (Lubbock 1862, p. 176).
Lubbock discussed the classification of species that were intermediate in form. He reiterated CD’s view that the absence of ‘links’ was not an argument for the permanence of species (Lubbock 1862, p. 174). The passage in CD’s copy of the paper is heavily scored in pencil. In the third edition of Origin, CD quoted Lubbock on this point, stating: ‘Every species is a link between other allied forms.’ (Origin 3d ed., p. 323; Peckham ed. 1959, p. 502).
Lubbock 1862, p. 176, where Lubbock stated that the Entomostraca presented ‘remarkable examples’ of CD’s observation that secondary sexual characteristics are very variable. The passage is heavily scored in CD’s copy of the paper. CD cited Lubbock on this point in the third edition of Origin (Origin 3d ed., p. 175; Peckham ed. 1959, p. 306).
The final version of the paper does not have the same page numbers as the proof-sheets seen by CD.
The sentence in the final version reads: ‘This latter group [the Cyproidea] is at present poor both in genera and in existing species, and it is in many respects very aberrant.’ (Lubbock 1862, p. 175). The passage is marked in CD’s copy.
The topic of domestication and variability is not discussed in the final version of the paper.
CD had asked Lubbock to check the contents of the most recent issue of Annals and Magazine of Natural History for him (see letter to John Lubbock, [18 November 1860]). The work by Richard Owen has not been identified.


Origin 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

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.


Praise for a paper on the Entomostraca by Lubbock (Lubbock 1862). Thanks for the compliment paid to the Origin and for his general comments.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Lubbock, 4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 263: 40b (EH 88206449)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3001,” accessed on 1 June 2023,

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