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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Emma Darwin to Elinor Mary Bonham-Carter   23 December [1864]1


Dec. 23

My dear Elinor

Mr. Darwin desires me to say that he is very much obliged to Mr. Noel for having allowed him to see his article.2

Mr. D. is the more pleased at Cotta’s remarks as very few of the older distinguished Geologists have taken so favourable a view of his work.3 He would of course be much pleased to see it published although he does not think there is much in it absolutely new or original** He was particularly pleased to read the remarks on the Azoic formations as coming from so distinguished a Geologist as Cotta.4

Mr. Darwin cannot speak positively as to its admittance into the Nat. Hist. Review, but he feels almost sure that it will be considered by the Editors as too long and not sufficiently of the nature of a Review.5 His remarks only refer to the part respecting species.

I am dear Elinor | Yours very sincerely | E. Darwin

** I think there is in the latter part and I believe the discoveries in Hungary are new to English Geologists.6


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Alice Bonham-Carter, 21 December [1864].
See letter from Alice Bonham-Carter, 21 December [1864]. The reference is to the translation by Robert Ralph Noel of an essay by Carl Bernhard von Cotta, later published as Geology and history (Cotta 1865).
Cotta surveyed recent geological findings that lent support to CD’s views on species, concluding: ‘From the stand-point of Geology, the Darwinian theory is, therefore, not to be refuted. On the contrary, it agrees as well as could be expected with the present imperfect state of our geological knowledge.’ (Cotta 1865, p. 69.)
Cotta argued that further examination of the oldest geological strata, which so far had yielded no traces of organic remains, might yet furnish evidence of the first life forms, and thus carry CD’s theory ‘to its utmost consequence’ (Cotta 1865, pp. 70–3).
The work did not appear in the Natural History Review, but was published in book form (see n. 2, above).
Cotta discussed recent discoveries of ancient human habitations in Hungary that provided further insights into the migrations of prehistoric populations (Cotta 1865, pp. 20–1). The last sentence was presumably added by CD.


Cotta, Carl Bernhard von. 1865. Geology and history. A popular exposition of all that is known of the earth and its inhabitants in pre-historic times. Translated by Robert R. Noel. London: Trübner & Co.


CD sends thanks to Mr Noel for allowing him to see article [sent by Alice Bonham-Carter, see 4722]. CD is pleased at Bernhard von Cotta’s remarks on species; very few of the older distinguished geologists have so favourable a view of his work. He was particularly pleased to read Cotta’s remarks on the azoic formations.

Letter details

Letter no.
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Bonham-Carter, E. M.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 442
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4723,” accessed on 20 October 2019,

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