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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   1 October [1862]

Down Bromley Kent

Oct 1.

My dear Lyell

You will find the long discussion on the “Règne Humain” in Ch. VII. of Tom. 2 p. 167 of Isid. G. Hist. Nat. Générale.1 I quite forgot to ask whether you have done with Rolle, as I could have taken it away with me.—2

I found here a short & very kind note from Falconer with some pages of his Elephant memoir, which will be published, in which he treats admirably on long persistence of type.3 I thought he was going to make a good & crushing attack on me; but to my great satisfaction he ends by pointing out a loophole & adds “with him I have no faith that the mammoth & other extinct elephants made their appearance suddenly .... .... . the most rational view seems to be that they are the modified descendants of earlier progenitors &c”4

This is capital. There will not be soon one good paleontologist who believes in immutability. Falconer does not allow for the Proboscidean Group being a failing one & therefore not likely to be giving off new races.—

He adds that he does not think natural selection suffices; I do not quite see the form of his argument, & he apparently overlooks that I say over & over again that N. Selection can do nothing without variability, & that variability is subject to the most complex fixed laws.

I much enjoyed my little chat with you.—5

Very sincerely yours | C. Darwin


CD refers to Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1854–62, 2: 167–261, in which the author concluded that, while in regard to its physical organisation, the human species constituted a family in the order of primates, in regard to its moral and intellectual faculties, it constituted a separate kingdom, of equal significance with the animal and plant kingdoms. CD’s annotated copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 316–20). Lyell was preparing a major work on the antiquity of the human species (C. Lyell 1863a), in which he referred to Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1854–62 as providing ‘an elaborate and faithful summary’ of ‘those systems of classification which have been proposed by the most eminent teachers of natural history’, especially in regard to the human species (p. 473).
CD apparently refers to the first part of Rolle 1863, the publication of which was announced on 8 September 1862 (Börsenblatt für die Deutschen Buchhandel 29 (1862): 1862). In his letter to Friedrich Rolle of 17 October [1862], CD reported that he had received the first part of Rolle’s work on returning home ‘after a long absence’; however, the work had apparently been forwarded to CD in Bournemouth, and subsequently to Lyell. See also letter to Daniel Oliver, [17 September 1862]. CD’s annotated copies of the four parts of Rolle 1863 are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. See also n. 5, below).
Falconer 1863, p. 80. See also letter to Hugh Falconer, 1 October [1862].
CD met Lyell in London on 30 September 1862 (see letter to Hugh Falconer, 1 October [1862]). According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), CD had spent the night of 29 September at the London home of his brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin.


Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Isidore. 1854–62. Histoire naturelle générale des règnes organiques, principalement étudiée chez l’homme et les animaux. 3 vols. Paris: Victor Masson.

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.

Rolle, Friedrich. 1863. Chs. Darwin’s Lehre von der Entstehung der Arten im Pflanzen- und Thierreich in ihrer Anwendung auf die Schöpfungsgeschichte. Frankfurt: J. C. Hermann.


Mentions a discussion of man by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in his Histoire naturelle générale [1854–62].

Mentions a book by Friedrich Rolle [Ch. Darwin’s Lehre von der Entstehung der Arten (1863)].

Cites evolutionary statements on elephants by Hugh Falconer and notes Falconer’s objection to natural selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.282)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3747,” accessed on 24 September 2023,

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