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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Forsell Kirby   12 December [1862]

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

December 12th

Dear Sir

I am very much obliged for your extremely kind present of your Manual of European Butterflies.—1 From all that I have heard I can well believe that it must have been a difficult task. It pleases me much to hear that you are not a believer in the immutability of species,—a doctrine perfectly adapted to stop philosophical research.—2 I trust that you some day will write on variation in Butterflies, & express your beliefs on the subject of species.— I do not know whether you are any relation of that great man, Kirby the author of that admirable work on Entomology;3 but if you are you have in truth good right to success; & if you are not, your name ought to be an omen of success.—

With my best wishes & thanks | Pray believe me | Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin

I have just observed that your note is dated Nov. 7th but was received only this day.—


Kirby 1862 was Kirby’s first work of importance, and brought him into public notice (Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation 24 (1912): 315).
The letter from Kirby has not been found; however, he was reportedly ‘an early disciple of Darwin’ (Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation 24 (1912): 315).
CD refers to the Suffolk clergyman, William Kirby, who was co-author with William Spence of Introduction to entomology (Kirby and Spence 1815–26); there is a copy of Kirby and Spence 1815–26 in the Darwin Library–CUL. W. F. Kirby was the son of a Leicester banker, and was apparently not a relation of the older entomologist (Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation 24 (1912): 315).


Kirby, William Forsell. 1862. A manual of European butterflies, on the plan of Stainton’s Manual of British butterflies and moths. London and Edinburgh.


CD sends thanks for Manual of European butterflies [1862].

Is pleased that WFK does not believe in immutability of species, "a doctrine perfectly adapted to stop philosophical research", and hopes he will publish further.

Notes WFK’s name is the same as the entomologist’s.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Forsell Kirby
Sent from
DE 13 62
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3854,” accessed on 21 January 2022,

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