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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Holland   4 November [1864]1

Brook Street

Nov 4

My dear Charles

I cannot forbear writing a a few lines, to express the very great pleasure I feel in the decision as to the Copley Medal yesterday.2 Never has it been more appropriately or worthily bestowed.— On every account I heartily rejoice in it

I hear frequently of your health from Erasmus.3 The intelligence of your improvement within the last two or three months has been very welcome to me.4

Erasmus, at my suggestion, has proposed your reading (if you have not already done so) the discussion of your doctrine in the 10th & 11th Nos of Herbert Spencer’s Biology. I may add to these the 12th No also, which I have just been reading.—5 He is a very remarkable writer, & has done you ample justice.

I have been having some participation with Falconer & Busk, in the examination of the Gibraltar Caves & Fossils, during the latter weeks of the Autumn.6 In addition to the good I always get from the sea, I had some profitable riding on the Morocco side of the Straits, from Tangiers,— a little less savage, however, in the sights it shewed than my military ride with the Army of the Potomac, in Virginia last year7

Ever my dear Charles your’s very truly | H Holland


The year is established by the reference to the Copley Medal (see n. 2, below)
The Council of the Royal Society of London voted to award CD the Copley Medal on 3 November 1864 (Royal Society, Council minutes).
Holland refers to CD’s brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin. See letter from E. A. Darwin, [15? April 1864].
CD’s health had been improving since April (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 April [1864] and n. 5, and letter from Emma Darwin to W. D. Fox, [6 May 1864]). In the past, CD and his family had consulted Holland, a prominent London physician and distant relation of CD’s, on matters of health (see letter from E. A. Darwin, [15? April 1864] and n. 4).
The reference is to Herbert Spencer’s Principles of biology (Spencer 1864–7). The work was issued in instalments beginning in January 1863 as a continuation of Spencer’s First principles (Spencer 1860–2). Instalment no. 10 (pp. 241–320) was issued in January 1864; no. 11 (pp. 321–400) in May 1864; and no. 12 (pp. 401–76) in October 1864. CD’s theory of natural selection is discussed on pp. 445–57. See letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 January 1864 and nn. 20–4, letters from J. D. Hooker, 24 January 1864 and n. 8, and 26[–8] October 1864, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 November [1864].
Holland had joined Hugh Falconer and George Busk in Gibraltar to investigate fossils (see Holland 1872, p. 308). See letter from Hugh Falconer, 3 November 186[4] and n. 6.
In his autobiography, Holland briefly mentions his 1863 visit to the headquarters of the Union army of the Potomac in Virginia (see Holland 1872, pp. 189, 278–9 n.). For an account of the army’s activities in 1863, see Denney 1992, pp. 260, 279–83, and 329.


Denney, Robert E. 1992. The civil war years: a day-by-day chronicle of the life of a nation. New York: Sterling Publishing.

Holland, Henry. 1872. Recollections of past life. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.

Spencer, Herbert. 1860–2. First principles. London: George Manwaring; Williams & Norgate.

Spencer, Herbert. 1864–7. The principles of biology. 2 vols. London: Williams & Norgate.


Congratulations on the Copley Medal.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Holland
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Brook St
Source of text
DAR 166: 244
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4659,” accessed on 15 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12