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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Lubbock   5 April [1863]1


April 5th

My dear Lubbock

You were so kind as to send to enquire after me the other day. I am better; a touch of that abominable yet blessed eczema did me as much good as a fit of gout. Whether my skin will allow me to try water-cure, I doubt; anyhow we shall not move till about the beginning of May.—2 Could you come over here some day for a short talk; not that it is worth your while unless you could also take in High-Elms.—3 This present week would not be quite so good, as our house is full of Boys & Relations.—4 But whenever you can spare time & are so inclined, it will give me, as you know, real pleasure to see you.—

The last number of N. H. Review seems to me very good in many ways.—5 I like particularly your Review of Lyell & agree to all you say.—6 Whether Lyell will like it quite so much, especially about the B. of Oxford, may well be doubted.7 But nothing you say can annoy him much; & it is all just. Your kick at Dr Cummings made me laugh.—8 You are never weary of heaping honour on me.—9

Farewell & good night | Most truly yours | C. Darwin

I suppose you read that wonderful Review in Athenæum on Carpenter, which I almost suspected & which Hooker tells me is by Owen.—10 What will the B. of Oxford say of slime &c generating new animals!—11 I sometimes think Owen must be demented


The year is established by the reference to Lubbock’s review of Charles Lyell’s Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a; see n. 6, below).
CD had considered visiting James Manby Gully’s hydropathic establishment in Great Malvern, Worcestershire (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 March [1863]).
In 1861, Lubbock moved from High Elms, the family home near Down, to Chislehurst, about five miles away (Hutchinson 1914, 1: 52).
Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) recorded the visits of a number of guests during the first week of April 1863. All the Darwin children, except for George, were home for Easter Sunday (5 April); CD’s sister, Emily Catherine, was also visiting Down House. Emma Darwin’s nephews, Laurence and Alfred Allen Wedgwood, arrived two days later when Edward Cresy also came for lunch. See also the letter from Emma Darwin to William Erasmus Darwin, [17 March 1863], in DAR 219.1: 71.
CD refers to the April number of the Natural History Review, of which Lubbock was one of the editors (see n. 6, below); CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Lubbock reviewed Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a) in the April number of the Natural History Review ([Lubbock] 1863c).
In his review of Lyell’s Antiquity of man ([Lubbock] 1863c, p. 213), Lubbock quoted the sentence he thought was the strongest statement in the book concerning the origin of species (C. Lyell 1863a, p. 469): Yet we ought by no means to undervalue the importance of the step which will have been made, should it ever become highly probable that the past changes of the organic world have been brought about by the subordinate agency of such causes as ‘Variation’ and ‘Natural Selection’. Lubbock then stated that even the bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, might agree to this sentence, ‘but we can hardly believe that it expresses Sir Charles Lyell’s real opinions, as the whole tenor of his argument is in favour of Mr. Darwin’s theory’ ([Lubbock] 1863c, p. 213). CD marked the quoted sentence in his annotated copy of C. Lyell 1863a, which is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 525–7). See also letter to Charles Lyell, 12–13 March [1863] and n. 17. For Wilberforce’s opposition to CD’s theory, see [Wilberforce] 1860 and Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix VI.
The popular and controversial preacher John Cumming was the author of Moses right and Bishop Colenso wrong (Cumming 1863). In a postscript to his review, Lubbock criticised Cumming’s misuse of geological authorities ([Lubbock] 1863c, p. 219); he charged Cumming with erroneously citing William Buckland, Edward Hitchcock, and Adam Sedgwick as believing that geological evidence supported the idea of a universal flood.
Although Lubbock stated that he wanted to confine his review of Antiquity of man to that part of the book concerned with prehistoric man ([Lubbock] 1863c, pp. 212–13), he referred to CD a number of times, concluding with a paragraph on natural selection in which he referred to ‘the genius of Darwin’, and describing CD as ‘our illustrious countryman’ (ibid., pp. 218–19).
See Appendix VII for the review of Carpenter 1862 that appeared in the Athenæum on 28 March 1863, pp. 417–19. The publisher’s marked copies of the Athenæum at the City University Library, London, confirm that Richard Owen was the reviewer. See letter to J. D. Hooker, [29 March 1863], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [31 March 1863].
Owen wrote that the mud or slime at the bottom of seas, lakes, and rivers contained a vital energy or force that ‘condensed into a protoplasmic centre’, eventually creating organisms ‘of all low grades of organization’ like the Foraminifera (Athenæum, 28 March 1863, p. 417, and Appendix VII). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, [29 March 1863] and n. 5. See also n. 7, above.


Carpenter, William Benjamin. 1862. Introduction to the study of the Foraminifera. Assisted by W. K. Parker and T. R. Jones. London: Ray Society.

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

Cumming, John. 1863. Moses right, and Bishop Colenso wrong; being popular lectures in reply to the first and second parts of "Bishop Colenso on the Pentateuch". London: John F. Shaw.

Hutchinson, Horace Gordon. 1914. Life of Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury. 2 vols. London: Macmillan.

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.

[Wilberforce, Samuel.] 1860. [Review of Origin.] Quarterly Review 108: 225–64.


JL’s review of Lyell’s Antiquity of man (1863) [Nat. Hist. Rev. n.s. 3 (1863): 211–19].

Owen’s review of W. B. Carpenter in Athenæum [28 Mar 1863, pp. 417–19].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Lubbock, 4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 263: 57
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4075,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11