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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   14 [January 1862]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Huxley

I am heartily glad of your success in the North, & thank you for your note & slip.—2 By Jove you have attacked Bigotry in its strong-hold. I thought you would have been mobbed. I am so glad that you will publish your Lectures. You seem to have kept a due medium between extreme boldness & caution.— I am heartily glad that all went off so well.—

I hope Mrs. Huxley3 is pretty well.— We have been a miserable family with 3 or 4 or 6 all in bed at the same time with virulent Influenza.— I have done nothing for nearly 3 weeks, & am much shaken.—4

I see some good hits against Owen in N. Hist. R; which, however, I have not yet read.5

I must say one word on Hybrid question.—6 no doubt you are right that here is great hiatus in argument; yet I think you overrate it— you never allude to the excellent evidence of varieties of Verbascum & Nicotiana being partially sterile together.7 It is curious to me to read (as I have to day) the greatest crossing Gardener, utterly poop-poohing the distinction which Botanists make on this head, & insisting how frequently crossed varieties produce sterile offspring.—8 Do oblige me by reading latter half of my Primula paper in Lin. Journal for it leads me to suspect that sterility will hereafter have to be largely viewed as an acquired or selected character.—9 a view which I wish I had had facts to maintain in the Origin.—

I hope to Heaven you will keep to your intention, & publish your Lectures.—10 I do not suppose I shall see Owen’s 2d. Edit; but he is so dishonest that I really now care little what he says.—11

Farewell. I am poor weak wretch with trembling hands; so good night, & all good luck to you.— Ever yours | C. Darwin

Some future time I shd. like the “Three Barriers” returned; as I collect all such rubbish.12

I find Brown-Sequard is largely with me, & will review in France the French Translation of the Origin.—13


The date is established by the relationship to the letter from T. H. Huxley, 13 January 1862, and by the reference to an article in the Journal of Horticulture of 14 January 1862 (see n. 8, below).
Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242) on 13 January, ‘all mending’.
CD refers to an article in the January issue of the Natural History Review (of which Huxley was the senior editor) by Jacob Ludwig Conrad Schroeder van der Kolk and Willem Vrolik (Schroeder van der Kolk and Vrolik 1862). The article discussed Richard Owen’s recently published paper comparing the cerebral characters of humans and apes (R. Owen 1861b) in which he had reprinted a diagram of a chimpanzee brain taken from an earlier paper by the authors (Schroeder van der Kolk and Vrolik 1849). The authors pointed out that, while Owen used their diagram to support his view that the posterior lobe, the posterior cornu of the lateral ventricle, and the hippocampus minor were peculiar to the human brain and not found in the brains of apes, Thomas Henry Huxley and John Marshall had placed exactly the opposite interpretation on it (see T. H. Huxley 1861b, p. 75, and Marshall 1861, p. 313). They accepted, moreover, the criticism made by Louis Pierre Gratiolet (Gratiolet [1854], pp. 18–19) that their drawing reflected some distortion of the dissected brain suffered during its removal from the brain case. A recent repetition of their dissection of a chimpanzee brain had confirmed Schroeder van der Kolk and Vrolik in their view that the structures in question were indeed present in ape brains. Though the tone of the article was respectful of Owen, the authors made the comment: ‘notre illustre confrère paraît s’être laissé entraîner par son désir de combattre la théorie de M. Darwin, et, si nous ne nous trompons fortement, il s’est fourvoyé’ [our illustrious colleague seems to be carried away by his desire to fight against Mr Darwin’s theory, and, unless we are greatly mistaken, he has lost his way] (Schroeder van der Kolk and Vrolik 1862, p. 112). See also Rupke 1994, pp. 274–9.
In Origin, pp. 270–1, CD described crossing experiments carried out by Karl Friedrich von Gärtner on Verbascum and by Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter on Nicotiana. Gärtner found that ‘yellow and white varieties of the same species of Verbascum when intercrossed produce less seed, than do either coloured varieties when fertilised with pollen from their own coloured flowers.’ Kölreuter observed that ‘one variety of the common tobacco is more fertile, when crossed with a widely distinct species, than are the other varieties’.
CD refers to an article in the 14 January 1862 issue of the Journal of Horticulture by the gardener, Donald Beaton (Journal of Horticulture n.s. 2: 309–10). There is an unbound copy of this issue of the journal in the Darwin Library–CUL; CD marked several passages of this article with marginal scoring.
‘Dimorphic condition in Primula; Huxley’s name does not appear on the presentation list for this paper (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix III). Towards the end of the paper, having described the differential fertility of long- and short-styled plants of Primula species when fertilised by pollen either from the same form or from the other form, CD stated (p. 94; see also Collected papers 2: 61): Seeing that we thus have a groundwork of variability in sexual power, and seeing that sterility of a peculiar kind has been acquired by the species of Primula to favour intercrossing, those who believe in the slow modification of specific forms will naturally ask themselves whether sterility may not have been slowly acquired for a distinct object, namely, to prevent two forms, whilst being fitted for distinct lines of life, becoming blended by marriage, and thus less well adapted for their new habits of life. CD’s notes on this subject are reproduced in Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI.
The reference is to the second edition of Richard Owen’s Palæontology (R. Owen 1861a; see letter from T. H. Huxley, 13 January 1862 and n. 5). There is a lightly annotated copy of this edition in the Darwin Library–Down (see Marginalia 1: 656).
[Rorison] 1861. CD had drawn Huxley’s attention to this book, which was critical of Origin, several months previously (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to T. H. Huxley, 31 October [1861]).


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

Gratiolet, Louis Pierre. [1854.] Mémoire sur les plis cérébraux de l’homme et des primatès. Paris: Arthus Bertrand.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

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.

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

Rupke, Nicolaas A. 1994. Richard Owen, Victorian naturalist. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.


On success of THH’s Edinburgh lectures.

Agrees that THH is right that the hybrid question is a "hiatus" [in the argument for natural selection] but he overrates it. Crossed varieties frequently produce sterile offspring. On this question asks THH to read his Primula paper [Collected papers 2: 45–63]. CD suspects sterility will come to be viewed as a selected character.

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: 167)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3386,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10