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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   31 October [1861]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Oct. 31st

My dear Huxley

In a little Book, just published, called the Three Barriers (a theological hash of old abuse of me) Owen gives to the Author a new resume of his Brain doctrine;2 & I thought you would like to hear of this. He ends with a delightful sentence. “No science affords more scope or easier ground for the caviller & controversialist; & these do good by preventing scholars from giving more force to generalisations than the master propounding them does, or meant his readers or hearers to give”.—3

You will blush with pleasure to hear that you are of some use to the Master.

Ever yours | C. Darwin

I have had more Catasetums, all right you audacious “caviller”.—4

Mr. Campbell vows he will work; if he will, he shall have lots—5


The year is given by CD’s reference to the publication of The three barriers (see n. 2, below).
The anonymous work The three barriers: notes on Mr. Darwin’s “Origin of Species” was published in August 1861 (Publishers’ Circular 1861). The author was the Scottish Presbyterian clergyman Gilbert Rorison (NUC). A review of this work by Samuel Pickworth Woodward, which appeared in the Critic, 30 November 1861, is in CD’s ‘Scrapbook of Reviews’ (DAR 226.1); Woodward incorrectly identified the author as ‘George’ Rorison. Huxley and Richard Owen were engaged in a public dispute over the question of the zoological classification of man. In particular, they disagreed about whether or not there was an anatomical difference between the brain of humans and that of the higher apes. Owen argued that the human brain was uniquely distinguished by virtue of the presence of the hippocampus minor; Huxley maintained that this structure was also present in other members of the Quadrumana. See also letters to T. H. Huxley, 1 April [1861], and to J. D. Hooker, 23 [April 1861].
[Rorison] 1861, p. 163. The discussion to which CD refers is in an appendix entitled ‘On the human and brute brains’, which presents, ‘with Professor Owen’s kind permission’, Owen’s criticism of Huxley’s article ‘On the zoological relations of man with the lower animals’ (T. H. Huxley 1861a).


NUC: The national union catalog. Pre-1956 imprints. 685 vols. and supplement (69 vols.). London and Chicago: Mansell. 1968–81.

[Rorison, Gilbert.] 1861. The three barriers: notes on Mr Darwin’s ‘Origin of species’. Edinburgh and London: Blackwood & Sons.


Owen’s new résumé of his brain doctrine ["On the cerebral character of man and ape", Ann. & Mag. Nat. Hist. 3d ser. 7 (1861): 456–8]; an attack on CD’s views. Quotes Owen on cavillers and controversialists.

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: 194)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3303,” accessed on 23 October 2019,

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