skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Darwin to Emma Darwin   11 November [1863]1

11 Nov.

Dear Emma

Thanks for your letter.2 I thought Mr Conway would be better satisfied if I wrote to inquire tho’ I had’nt an idea that Charles would be able to see him.3 I have very little to say about the Copley Medal.4 The numbers were 8 to 10 for Charles, but the Cambridge men mustered very strongly for Sedgwick.5 I did not know enough to ask Carpenter any questions.6 He also mentioned that Benthams address to the Linnæan was on Origin & very good.7 Lyell was talking again how much he wished the Dogs to be published & Huxley the same, & that even Hooker grudged Charles employing his time on plants instead of animals.8

Yours affectionately | E. D


The year is established by the reference to the Copley Medal (see n. 5, below).
The letter has not been found.
The reference is to the Royal Society’s Copley Medal (see n. 5, below, and letter from E. A. Darwin, 9 November [1863]).
On 5 November 1863, the council of the Royal Society resolved to award the Copley Medal to Adam Sedgwick, professor of geology at the University of Cambridge. According to the council minutes, only seventeen, rather than eighteen, of the twenty-one council members were present at the meeting. Warren De la Rue, Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton, Robert Godwin-Austen, and Joseph Henry Green were absent; however, it was not unusual for all but De la Rue to miss meetings (see Royal Society Council minutes, 1863, and Lyons 1944, pp. 272–5). See also letter from Edward Sabine to John Phillips, 12 November 1863 and n. 4. Three members of the Council of the Royal Society were directly associated with Cambridge University in 1863: William Hallowes Miller, George Gabriel Stokes, and Robert Willis (DNB).
William Benjamin Carpenter was a member of the council of the Royal Society (see letter from E. A. Darwin, 9 November [1863] and n. 4). Carpenter and John Lubbock had nominated CD for the Copley medal (see Royal Society Council minutes, 11 June 1863).
The reference is to George Bentham’s presidential address to the Linnean Society of London on 25 May 1863, in which Bentham discussed the reception of Origin by the international scientific community (Bentham 1863). For CD’s reaction to the address, see the letter to George Bentham, 19 June [1863] and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [June 1863].
The references are to Charles Lyell, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Joseph Dalton Hooker. In working on his ‘big book’ on species, of which Origin was an abstract (see letter to Asa Gray, 31 May [1863], n. 18), CD investigated variation in domestic dogs (see Correspondence vols. 5–9). CD and Lyell discussed dog ancestry in 1859 (see Correspondence vol. 7). Since Origin appeared in 1859, CD had published a book on orchid pollination (Orchids) and papers on polymorphism in Primula (‘Dimorphic condition in Primula) and Linum (‘Two forms in species of Linum). The first part of the planned three-part ‘big book’ was published in 1868 as Variation; the first chapter was a discussion of variation in domesticated breeds of dogs and cats (Variation 1: 15–48).


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

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

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Lyons, Henry. 1944. The Royal Society 1660–1940: a history of its administration under its charters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

‘Two forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


CD’s Copley Medal. The numbers were ten to eight in CD’s favour but the Cambridge men mustered strongly for Sedgwick.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 105: B116–17
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4671,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

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