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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Armand de Quatrefages   11 July [1862]1

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

July 11th

Dear Sir

I thank you cordially for so kindly & promptly answering my questions.2 I will quote some of your remarks.— The case seems to me of some importance, with reference to my heretical notions, for it shows how larvæ might be modified.3 I shall not publish, I daresay for a year, for much time is expended on experiments;4 if within this time you should acquire any fresh information on the similarity of the moths of distinct races, & would allow me to quote any facts on your authority I should feel very grateful.—5

I thank you for your great kindness with respect to the Translation of the Origin;6 it is very liberal in you, as we differ to a considerable degree.— I have been atrociously abused by my religious countrymen; but as I live an independent life in the country, it does not in the least hurt me in any way,—except indeed when the abuse comes from an old friend, like Prof. Owen, who a[bu]ses me & then advances the doctrine that all Birds are probably descended from one parent.—7

I wish the Translator had known more of Natural History; she must be a clever, but singular Lady; but I never heard of her, till she proposed to translate my Book.—8

Dear Sir | Yours sincerely obliged | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to the French translation of Origin (see n. 6, below). See also letter from Armand de Quatrefages, [after 11 July 1862].
For CD’s letter to Quatrefages, see Correspondence vol. 30, letter to Armand de Quatrefages, 3 July [1862]. Quatrefages’s reply has not been found.
The reference may be to Quatrefages’s views on larval development, later published in Quatrefages 1862, p. 129. In Variation 2: 269, CD wrote: Insects sometimes have their antennæ or legs in a monstrous condition, and yet the larvæ from which they are metamorphosed do not possess either antennæ or legs; and in these cases, as Quatrefages believes, we are enabled to see the precise period at which the normal progress of development has been troubled. There is an annotated presentation copy of Quatrefages 1862 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see also letter from Armand de Quatrefages, [after 11 July 1862]).
Variation was not published until 1868.
Quatrefages was a leading authority on silk moths, and CD frequently cited him in the account of the moths in Variation 1: 300–4; according to his ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II), CD finished writing that section of Variation in the summer of 1862. In Variation 1: 303, CD referred to a statement he had received from Quatrefages confirming that there were no constant differences in moths ‘of the most distinct races’.
CD refers to the French translation of Origin (Royer trans. 1862), which was published in June 1862 (see letter to Asa Gray, 10–20 June [1862] and n. 25). (CD had unsuccessfully sought Quatrefages’s help in finding a French translator for Origin in December 1859 (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Armand de Quatrefages, 5 December [1859] and n. 5).)
The reference is probably to Richard Owen’s lectures at the Museum of Practical Geology on the ‘Characters, Organisation, Geographical Distribution, and Geological Relations of Birds’. The series of six lectures ran from 14 to 30 May 1862 (Athenæum, 10 May 1862, p. 613). The accounts of these lectures given in the Parthenon 1 (1862): 82, 115, 148, 179, 211–12, and the Medical Times and Gazette (1862), pt 1: 513, 537–8, 563–4, 590–1, 616–7, 645–6, do not report the claim that CD mentions; nor does the claim appear in the manuscript text which survives for some of the lectures (Natural History Museum, London, OC38.3/286–331). Owen also gave a series of four lectures on birds between 7 and 28 April 1862 at the London Institution, but no reports of these lectures have been found (see the syllabus in the Natural History Museum, London, OC38.3/285). CD apparently learned of the content of the lectures from one of his acquaintances (see letter to Charles Lyell, 22 August [1862]), possibly Miles Joseph Berkeley, who, in his review of Orchids ([Berkeley] 1862, p. 553) stated of Owen: one of the most ardent opponents of Mr. Darwin’s views at the great Oxford meeting two years ago, was so far fallen in with them as apparently to allow the possibility of the whole ornithological world being derived from a single type See also letter to Asa Gray, 23[–4] July [1862].
Clémence Auguste Royer’s letter to CD proposing to translate Origin into French has not been found, but see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to John Murray, 10 September [1861]. In her preface to the translation, Royer expressed regret at her lack of detailed scientific knowledge but added that she had sought to convey the intent of the author (Royer trans. 1862, p. xxxv). See also letter from Edouard Claparède, 6 September 1862.


[Berkeley, Miles Joseph.] 1862. Fertilization of orchids. London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Arts and Sciences 4: 553–4.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.


Thanks for answers to CD’s questions; would appreciate any new information on similarity of moths of distinct races.

CD has been "atrociously abused by religious countrymen, but it does not hurt except when it comes from an old friend like Prof. Owen".

Wishes French translator of Origin had known more natural history.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Jean Louis Armand (Armand de Quatrefages) Quatrefages de Bréau
Sent from
Source of text
Wellcome Collection
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3653,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

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