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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   18 April [1863]

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 18th

My dear Lyell

I was really quite sorry that you should have sent me a second copy of your valuable book.1 But after a few hours my sorrow vanished for this reason.— I have written a letter to the Athenæum,2 in order, under the cloak of attacking the monstrous article on Heterogeny to say a word for myself in answer to Carpenter,3 & now I have inserted a few sentences in allusion to your analogous objection about Bats on islands,4 & then with infinite slyness have quoted your amended sentence with your parenthesis (“as I fully believe”);5 I do not think you can be annoyed at my doing this, & you see that I am determined, as far as I can, that the Public shall see how far you go.—6 This is the first time I have ever said a word for myself in any Journal, & it shall,, I think, be the last.— My letter is short & no great thing.—

I was extremely concerned to see Falconer’s disrespectful & virulent letter.7 I like extremely your answer, just read.8 You take a lofty & dignified position, to which are so well entitled. I suspect that if you had inserted a few more superlatives in speaking of the several authors, there would have been none of this horrid noise.— No one, I am sure, who knows you, could doubt about your hearty sympathy with every one who makes any little advance in science.9 I still well remember my surprise at the manner in which you listened to me in Hart St on my return from the Beagle’s Voyage.— You did me a world of good.—10 It is horridly vexatious that so frank & apparently aimiable a man as Falconer shd. have behaved so. Well it will all soon be forgotten.—

Is there any chance of Lady Lyell & you being able to come here for a little visit.11 Emma was going to have written this very morning; but last night I had a furious attack of Eczema, which I suppose will take every bit of skin off my face, & as this generally makes me very unwell for many days, she did not write; but I have got better this evening, as this note, shows; & I hope I may be fairly well very soon; though far from as beautiful as usual.—

Farewell my good old master | C. Darwin

Have you seen Bates’ Book   it is capital.—12


The second edition of Lyell’s Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863b) was published between 15 and 30 April 1863 (Publishers’ Circular 26 (1863): 218).
See letter to Athenæum, 18 April [1863].
The ‘monstrous article’ to which CD refers was Richard Owen’s anonymous review (Athenæum, 28 March 1863, pp. 417–19) of Carpenter 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix VII). William Benjamin Carpenter responded in the Athenæum, 4 April 1863, p. 461. See letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 April 1863] and nn. 9–10.
CD refers to the question regarding differences in the rate of change over time of particular species. This question was raised in Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a), pp. 443–8, where Lyell discussed the absence of certain mammals on small and isolated islands (see letter to Athenæum, 18 April [1863]). Owen and Carpenter discussed the same question in their own recent letters to the Athenæum (see n. 3, above).
Lyell actually wrote, ‘(as I fully expect it will)’ (C. Lyell 1863b, p. 469; see letter to Athenæum, 18 April [1863] and n. 11).
CD was concerned that Lyell was unwilling to endorse transmutation more wholeheartedly in print. For CD’s disappointment regarding Lyell’s position in C. Lyell 1863a, see, for example, the letter to Charles Lyell, 6 March [1863].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 April 1863] and n. 3. The reference is to Hugh Falconer’s letter in the Athenæum, 4 April 1863, pp. 459–60.
Lyell’s letter was printed in the Athenæum, 18 April 1863, pp. 523–5. In it, Lyell pointed out that he had given both Falconer and Joseph Prestwich the opportunity to tell him which passages might require correction in the second edition, and that both had refused to do so. Lyell then proceeded to dispute Falconer’s letter point by point, indicating those passages in which he cited the research of both Falconer and Prestwich.
John Lubbock, like Falconer, thought that Lyell had not given enough credit to other researchers (see, for example, letter from John Lubbock, 7 April 1863 and n. 6). See also L. G. Wilson 1996a for correspondence during April 1863 between Lyell and William Pengelly regarding Falconer’s concerns.
In a letter to Caroline Darwin, [7 December 1836] (Correspondence vol. 1), CD wrote: ‘I have seen Lyell, who was exceedingly friendly, & gave me much sensible advice and told me how he managed to make most of his time; an art which no one understands better.’ In 1836, the Lyells lived at 16 Hart Street, Bloomsbury, London.
Charles and Mary Elizabeth Lyell had planned to visit Down House from 1 to 4 March (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 24–5 February [1863]), but were unable to do so. Emma Darwin recorded in her diary that CD was ill on those days (DAR 242). There is no evidence that they visited Down House later in 1863.


Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

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–.


Describes a letter he has written to the Athenæum in which he mentions CL’s views on species modification ["Doctrine of heterogeny", Collected papers 2: 78–80].

Comments on criticism of Lyell’s book [Antiquity] by Falconer and others.

Mentions his eczema.

Invites the Lyells to visit.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.294)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4106,” accessed on 22 July 2024,

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