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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Leonard Horner   14 February [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

Feb. 14th

My dear Mr. Horner

I must just thank you for your note,2 but I will take advantage of your kind & considerate offer of discussing the points referred to till we meet.3 The latter point seems to me very intricate & I have often thought it over.—

Man does not cause any variation   he only accumulates any which occur: I do not suppose that God intentionally gave the parent Rock-Pigeon a tendency to vary in size of Crop, so that man by selecting such variations should make a Pouter; so under nature, I believe variations arise, as we must call them, in our ignorance accidentally or spontaneously, & these are naturally selected or preserved from being beneficial to the successive individual animals in their struggles for Life.— I know not whether I make myself clear.—4

Believe me | My dear Mr Horner | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


The date of the letter is based on the 1859 watermark on the stationery, and on the year provided in K. M. Lyell ed. 1890, 2: 300.
Horner’s letter has not been found. CD had received a letter from him soon after the publication of Origin expressing his general approval of the arguments presented in the book. See Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Leonard Horner, 23 December [1859].
CD was in London on 21 and 22 February 1861. On 21 February, he gave an account to the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society of the results to date of his experiments on Drosera (Bonney 1919, p. 154). Horner was the chairman of the meeting (see Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix IV).
Horner was preparing to discuss Origin in his presidential address to the anniversary meeting of the Geological Society of London on 15 February 1861 (Horner 1861). See letter to Leonard Horner, 20 March [1861].


Bonney, T. G. 1919. Annals of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society written from its minute books. London: Macmillan.

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

Horner, Leonard. 1861. Anniversary address of the president. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 17: xxxi-lxxii.

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.


Variations in nature arise from unknown causes, accidentally or spontaneously, and are preserved by natural selection if beneficial.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Leonard Horner
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3062,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9