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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   13 [August 1861]

2. Hesketh Crescent | Torquay


My dear Lyell

Very many thanks for the Orchids, which have proved extremely useful to me in two ways I did not anticipate, but were too monstrous (yet of some use) for my special purpose.1

When you come to “Deification” ask yourself honestly whether what you are thinking applies to the endless variations of domestic production which man accumulates for his mere fancy or use. No doubt these are all caused by some unknown law, but I cannot believe they were ordained for any purpose; & if not so ordained under domesticity, I can see no reason to believe that they were ordained in a state of nature. Of course it may be said that when you kick a stone, or when a leaf falls from a tree, that it was ordained before the foundations of the world were laid, exactly where that stone or leaf should lie. In this sense the subject has no interest for me.—2

Once again many thanks for the orchids; you must let me repay you, what you paid the Collector.—

Ever Yours | C. Darwin


See letter to Charles Lyell, 6 August [1861]. CD mentioned Lyell’s assistance in sending him specimens of ‘spurless’ Orchis pyramidalis in Orchids, p. 41.


Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Thanks CL for orchids acquired from a collector.

Discusses role of Providence in variation. Does CL honestly think it applies to variations in domestication? If not ordained there, sees no reason for it in nature either.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.260)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3230,” accessed on 7 October 2022,

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