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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   9 [February 1862]1

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

Sunday 9th.

My dear Sir

I will send up to you by a servant tomorrow (Monday) the M.S of my Orchid Book, excepting the last Ch. which can be fully completed before I get first proofs.—2

For Heavens sake be careful of the M.S. for I have no copy of three of the Chapters.—

Inside parcel you will see letter of Instructions to Messrs. Clowes;3 please read & modify as you think fit.—

Urge Messrs. Clowes to print quickly , as I am incapable of changing my work & want to get on with my other Books.—4

Now I have finished the Orchids, I can say with confidence that the M.S. contains many new & very curious facts & conclusions.— I have done my best to make the facts striking & clear. I think they will interest enthusiasts in Nat. History; but I fear will be too difficult for general public. In short, I know not in the least, whether the Book will sell.5 If it prove a dead failure, I shall hold myself to a large extent responsible for having tempted you to publish with your eyes shut.— Perhaps there may be enough enthusiasts to prevent a dead failure⁠⟨⁠.⁠⟩⁠

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The month is established by the relationship to the letter to W. E. Darwin, 14 February [1862]. See also letter to H. W. Bates, 27 February [1862].
Orchids was published on 15 May 1862 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)).
William Clowes & Sons was the London printing firm used by John Murray.
CD refers to his planned three-part work on natural selection, of which Origin was an ‘abstract’. In the summer of 1861, he had interrupted work on Variation, the first part of the projected work, to write Orchids (see Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix II).
Though well-reviewed, Orchids sold slowly (Freeman 1977, p. 112). In first suggesting the book to Murray, CD had used the most tentative of terms, warning that interest in the book was likely to be limited (see Correspondence vol. 9, letters to John Murray, 21 September [1861] and 24 September [1861]).


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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

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.

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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Sends MS of Orchids except last chapter. It contains many new and curious facts and conclusions, but he has no idea whether it will sell. If it does not, will hold himself largely responsible.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42152 ff. 114–115)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3442,” accessed on 16 May 2022,

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