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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   1 April [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 1st.

My dear Huxley

I return the 3 pamphlets by this post.— The Duke is very liberal & highly complimentary to me, but I do not think much of his argument—2 Curious case of absence of organic remains is that of India, as described by Oldham.—3

I was extremely glad to see your notice in Athenæum.4 It seemed to me very well done, but almost too civil. It is a good joke, that since Owen attacked me, I do not feel at all a good monitor, & feel more inclined to clap anyone on the back, then to cry hold hard!—5 I wonder whether he will answer you.—6 Oh Lord what a thorn you must be in the poor dear man’s side.—

Ever yours | C. Darwin

We shd. be very glad sometime to hear how Mrs. Huxley goes on.—7


Dated by the reference to Huxley’s ‘notice’ in the Athenæum (see n. 4, below).
George Douglas Campbell, duke of Argyll, discussed Origin in his presidential address delivered before the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 3 December 1860. The address was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 4 (1857–62): 350–77. Campbell praised the ‘rich collection’ of facts CD marshalled in support of his theory, but stated that they ‘bear a very small proportion to the purely speculative conclusions’ that CD had drawn from them (ibid., pp. 371–6).
The reference may be to a paper by Thomas Oldham on the fossil remains in the Cretaceous rocks of India published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Oldham 1858). Oldham prefaced a list of recently identified fossil species by pointing out the absence in India of representatives of several genera that were common in the Cretaceous deposits of Europe (Oldham 1858, pp. 114–15).
The Athenæum, 30 March 1861, p. 433, included a critical notice by Huxley of a published abstract of Richard Owen’s Royal Institution lecture of 19 March on ‘The gorilla and the negro’ (ibid., 23 March 1861, pp. 395–6). Huxley pointed out that there were two ‘important omissions’ in the information given, which he believed obscured ‘the real resemblances and differences which obtain between the brain of the highest ape and that of man.’
CD’s reference is to Owen’s hostile review of Origin ([R. Owen] 1860b).
Owen responded to Huxley’s notice in the next issue of the Athenæum, 6 April 1861, p. 467. This in turn prompted a lengthy and pointed response by Huxley in the issue of 13 April 1861, p. 498. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [April 1861].
Henrietta Anne Huxley was recuperating from the birth of her latest child and grieving over the death of her first-born son. She and the Huxleys’ three children had visited the Darwins at Down from 9 to 25 March. See letter to T. H. Huxley, 22 February [1861].


Oldham, Thomas. 1858. On some additions to the knowledge of the Cretaceous rocks of India. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 27: 112–24.

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.


Does not think much of the arguments of the Duke [of Argyll], though liberal and complimentary to himself.

THH’s Athenæum letter ["Man and the apes", 30 Mar 1861, p. 433] almost too civil. What a thorn THH must be to Owen.

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: 162)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3107,” accessed on 28 February 2024,

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