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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Bentham   21 April 1863

25 Wilton Place

April 21/63

My dear Darwin

I am afraid I have omitted thanking you for your great kindness in lending me the very things I wanted to see1   I have been so very busy the last week the printer having almost got up to me in the flora Australiensis that I have not had a moment for anything else—2 I now hope to send him the last words of the Preface tomorrow—and will then immediately go through these pamphlets and return them to you—3 I trust you do not expect anything to come of it of value to you or any one else   I do not feel up to a thorough discussion of your views founded upon such a vast amount of undeniable facts and wonderful observations which you have made. For though I do not go so far as Jos. Hooker in the thorough adoption of all your hypotheses, and though I fully agree with John Mill and other such experienced logicians in the appreciation of your arguments still I do not feel competent to enter into the lists and argue upon the very limited observations I have myself made.4 All I want is to make myself as well acquainted as I can with the present state of the question with the view perhaps of saying a few words in my anniversary address.—5 and this I knew I could not do without your assistance in telling me which of the unmanageable mass of criticisms it was worth looking into.

I have nearly got through Sir C. Lyell’s book which is admirable as to the Geological as main portion—6 I wish there had been a little more method in the early part—and I should rather he had left the brain question in Huxley’s hands who is fully equal to holding his own with Owen7—but I cannot understand Dr Falconer’s attack which seems to me quite unwarrantable.8

I will return the pamphlets as soon as possible—9 may I keep them a fortnight?

Yours very sincerely | George Bentham


Bentham had asked CD for references to foreign publications that discussed CD’s theory (see letter from George Bentham, [c. 14 April 1863] and n. 2, and letter to George Bentham, 15 April [1863]).
The first volume of Bentham’s Flora Australiensis (Bentham 1863–78) was published on 30 May 1863 (Taxonomic literature). It was printed by the firm of John Edward Taylor, 10 Little Queen Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London.
The references are to Joseph Dalton Hooker and the philosopher John Stuart Mill. Bentham quoted Mill in his presidential address to the Linnean Society (Bentham 1863; see letter to George Bentham, 19 June [1863] and n. 9).
Bentham devoted a considerable portion of his presidential address, delivered to the Linnean Society on 25 May 1863, to discussing the international reaction to CD’s theory of the origin of species (Bentham 1863, pp. xi–xxiv). See letter From J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1863 and n. 10.
C. Lyell 1863a.
Bentham refers to the debate between Thomas Henry Huxley and Richard Owen regarding differences between simian and human brains (see L. G. Wilson 1996b). Charles Lyell reviewed the state of the controversy in C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 480–93.
Bentham refers to Hugh Falconer’s letter in the Athenæum, 4 April 1863, pp. 459–60, which criticised Lyell for not giving sufficient credit to the research of Falconer and Joseph Prestwich in C. Lyell 1863a (see letter from John Lubbock, 7 April 1863 and n. 6, and letter to Charles Lyell, 18 April [1863] and nn. 7–9).


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Bentham, George. 1863. [Anniversary address, 25 May 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): xi–xxix.

Bentham, George and Mueller, Ferdinand von. 1863–78. Flora Australiensis: a description of the plants of the Australian territory. 7 vols. London: Lovell Reeve and Company.

Taxonomic literature: Taxonomic literature. A selective guide to botanical publications and collections with dates, commentaries and types. By Frans A. Stafleu and Richard S. Cowan. 2d edition. 7 vols. Utrecht, Netherlands: Bohn, Scheltema & Holkema. The Hague, Netherlands: W. Junk. 1976–88.


Has not yet read the pamphlets [selection of reviews of Origin, sent by CD at GB’s request]. Though GB does not go so far as Hooker in accepting all of CD’s hypotheses and does not feel up to a thorough discussion of his views, he hopes in his Linnean Anniversary Address [Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. (1863): xi–xxix] to speak on the present state of the [species] question.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Bentham
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Wilton Place, 25
Source of text
DAR 160: 156
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4118,” accessed on 28 May 2020,

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