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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Lyell to J. D. Hooker   [31 May 1865]

My dear Hooker

I send the correspondence1   I am sorry to say that I think the effect of Lubbock having for more than a year had the opportunity of telling his own story to Huxley & Busk (& probably to many others) will make them always misunderstand the matter.2 As to the general reader of Lubbocks book he has taken good care that he shall do the same—3

All one can do in such a case is to let those friends who know one be aware of what happened. I have not had much to do with Lubbock & the affair does not make me desire to be intimate.

sinly yrs | Cha Lyell

[Enclosure 1]

53 Harley Street

May 25. 1865


Dear Lubbock,

I have received a copy of your “Pre-historic Times” marked “from the author4

I like so much what I have seen of it & expect it to do so much good to the cause that it is a real disappointment to me to have to say that I think, after the full reply I gave both written & in conversation to a former letter of yours, that the wording of your note at page 10 of the preface about my borrowing of you without acknowledgement strikes me as unfriendly in its tone & as a decided overstatement of the facts.5 It omits entirely the explanation which I gave you of what induced me to put in the note at page 11 which you point to as irreconcilable with the text especially at page 16.6

Your words are that I have “made much use of your earlier articles in the Nat. Hist. Rev. frequently indeed extracting whole sentences verbatim or nearly so.” Now there are only three passages in which I have borrowed even any expressionsfrom you.

The principal of these, that to which you particularly call my attention at page 16. (Lubbock p. 496) you will find fully given in a paper by Morlot printed at Berne in French in 1859 long before you first went to Denmark. (Morlot–Societé Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles Tome VI. 1840 p. 276).7 With Morlot’s paper I was familiar when it first came out; indeed he sent me his MS of this & another paper that I might read them before they were printed. The same memoir was republished in English by the Smithsonian Institution 1861. (p 14)8 before yours came out in the Nat. Hist. Rev, but I found with surprise as I told you before that though I have not borrowed a single fact or inference in this case from you there are some phrases which prove to me that I must have re-worded it after I had seen your paper. The next sentence (Lyell p 11. Lubbock p 491) relates to the duration of the bronze age as inferred from the number of bronze implements found & a gradual progress in the arts which they imply— I feel persuaded that I got the proofs of advance from the Danish archeologists but perhaps the corroboration founded on the numberof the instruments I may have derived from your paper & it is the only single point which I believe you can make out in my second chapter which was not drawn from sources independent of you & antecedent to your first tour in Denmark.

In speaking of the skulls being like those of the Laplanders, their round shape & other characters, all given by Morlot I may have afterwards introduced from you the “prominent ridge” on the forehead.

In another case you may have deceived yourself by supposing that the coincidence as to the dimensions of the shell-mounds (Lyell p 12 Lubbock p. 493) implied that I borrowed from you, but you will find on comparison that I took the numbers from Morlot (Societé Vaudoise etc p 275–Smithsonian Inst p 13). which differed from yours; thus I give 1000 feet & you 900.

What I say of the bison & other Mammalia & of the Auk & Capercailzie was all from Danish sources & is given by Morlot, the words are not yours.

I mentioned to you that I conversed with Prof. Claparede9 in 1859 & that I have a letter from him dated December 8. 1859 in which he gives me expressly for my use an abstract of what had been written by Steenstrup whom he had seen, & by Forchhammer & several other Danish antiquaries & naturalists whose papers he had read in the original language “Oversigt over det Konglike Danske Videnskabernes Selskabs Forhandlingen 1848–1851.10

I have already told you that my second chapter, the only one in which there is any coincidence between your Articles published in 1861–6211 & mine, was set up in type before I read your Memoirs. It remained in type nine months while I was writing & printing the Glacial & Darwinian portions of my book & while I was travelling in Italy in 1862. During this long interval several new numbers of Keller’s “Pfahlbauten”12 appeared & I inserted from them & from your Danish paper a few additions & corrections without disturbing the paging. I could not make up my mind to break up the type of half my book & to delay its publication in order to introduce some new views & reasonings which these fresh contributions to science suggested. With difficulty I got room for the note in which I was determined to call attention to your “able papers” stating, what I meant as an apology for not doing justice to your reasoning that mine was written first. I had not room to explain more, but it would certainly have been better if I had done so at length in the preface   As to my not citing you where I borrowed the expressions above alluded to, it was truly as you say “an inadvertence”. I had forgotten it because I regarded those few words taken from you as absolutely unimportant

Let me now ask you whether there is a single fact or idea taken from your memoirs which was not antecedently published by the Danes & Swedes; if you can point out none surely it could not signify to the public or you which of the two authors borrowed from the other. But your note implies not only that I have frequently borrowed from you but that the unacknowledged obligations were of such value as to call for remonstrance & a disclaimer on your part of having been indebted to my publication.

I said in a former letter that it was not unnatural that you should allude to the anachronism of my note as compared to my text as it might possibly lead some few readers to suppose you had taken from me; but I regret & feel much surprised that you did not insert the short sentence which I gave you, saying ‘that my early chapters were written long before I read your paper & that a few additions & corrections only were inserted from it, because I could not make up my mind to recast my work after so much of it was in type, which would have caused a serious delay of publication.

When you say that “you had reason to believe that I regretted the inadvertence of my statement” in the note at p 11. no reader will imagine that this was after I had given you frankly a full explanation both written & personal of what had occurred. They will simply suppose that you had learnt from a third person that I was sorry that the contradiction of dates in my note & text had been found out.13

I shall take a copy of this letter as I wish to show it to some of friends but I will wait a day or two to know whether you wish to have any explanation circulated with it, or intend to allow any more copies to be sent out by your publisher with the note at page 10 uncancelled or unmodified14

Believe me | dear Lubbock | Yrs. truly. | Cha Lyell

[Enclosure 2]


29 May/65

My dear Sir Charles

I have read your letter with much surprise & regret. You will find on examination that the three passages to which you refer are by no means the only ones in your book which agree exactly or almost exactly with mine. Compare for instance among others the passage about bronze castings in P. 10 that about the wild swan in P. 15, that about the Danish forests in P. 16. &c.15

The sentence about grain in Morlots paper to which you refer me bears no resemblance to mine.16

Of course we have neither of us any claim to originality in the matter. You might have obtained all the information in your Chapter on Danish Archæology, from Danish sources & from Morlots paper; but it is evident that you did not do so.

My object in the note to which you take exception, was however not to claim credit for myself, but simply to protect myself from the imputation of having quoted without acknowledgment from your work.

Some of my readers would assuredly have noticed the coincidences in my book & in the “Antiquity of Man”,17 & more particularly, in the face of the note to p. 11. of your work, they would almost inevitably have come to the conclusion that I had borrowed from you. That note gave me, & would I think give the Public an entirely different impression from that which, as it appears, you intended to convey.

As regards the letter to which you refer & which you think I ought to have quoted, I can only say that I would willingly have printed our correspondence, in my preface, if I had felt authorised to do so.18

I really cannot see that you have any reason to complain of me, & as I have the satisfaction of feeling that this is the opinion of several of our mutual friends I cannot but hope that on further consideration you will yourself arrive at the same conclusion.19

I am very glad that you like what you have seen of the book itself, & remain, dear Sir Charles, | Yours truly | John Lubbock

w Sir C Lyell Bt.

[Enclosure 3]

53 Harley St

May 30/65.


Dear Lubbock

My proof-sheets on the Danish Kitchen-middens & the Swis lake-dwellings are unfortunately destroyed, & I can only ascertain from the printer the exact date when they were put up in type.

They were first set up for the “Elements20 in smaller type & afterwards, when my plan of publication was changed put into larger type, that of the Antiquity of Man, before I received your first paper. They were written before you went to Denmark, as they stand now, they make the same number of pages & almost the same number of lines as at first; a few lines shorter because I abridged one page in order to make room for a note acknowledging your papers.

It was impossible for me to read & re-read Morlot’s papers, sent to me in English in his handwriting before you started for Denmark, to have a correspondence with him which I still retain & with Claparede as before stated, without hitting upon all those ost striking points to which you allude; such for example as the wild swan proving that the kitchen-middens were going on during winter (Morlot p 16), that the succession of Danish forests was synchronous with the ages of stone, bronze & iron (Morlot pp 27 & 29),21 that there was no grain or cereals etc

I told you before your book came out that I admitted that I must have seen your Danish paper & re-touched & re-worded several passages from your text but not so many as you think; I was surprised to find it so when you first called my attention to the fact. But, as I stated they were always in substance the same as now, which is quite intelligible as you say in your note just received “Of course we have neither of us any claim to originality in the matter. You might have obtained all the information in your chapter on Danish archæology from Danish sources & from Morlot’s paper.”

I fully admitted to you that you were quite right in pointing out that the coincidences in your book & mine were not caused by your copying from me. It is the manner in which you worded your note at page X & your omission to allude to the verbal & written communications on the subject which I had with you of which I complain

You say that you did not feel authorized to print what I wrote & what I said when talking with you. How you could have felt any doubt is unintelligible to me; you might have asked me if you had any hesitation & you ought to have been glad to give my explanation which would have been satisfactory to those who know me better than you do.

Mutual friends, you say, think I have no reason to complain but I feel sure that they never saw my former letter to you before they read your note at page X.22 Had they seen it they would have recommended you to insert my explanation of the true assertion in my note that my chapter was written before your first paper & they would also have suggested that you should state in the same note at page X that there was nothing on Danish archæology that we might not both have derived from common sources & that you were only anxious to show that you had not borrowed from me & not by implication to set up a claim of originality for discoveries taken without acknowledgement by me from you. Had they known all & allowed yr. note to stand as it is they would have shown themselves no friends of mine still less of yours.

C. L.


Lyell sent copies of the enclosed letters regarding his dispute with John Lubbock to CD and Thomas Henry Huxley as well as Hooker (letter from Charles Lyell to T. H. Huxley, 2 June 1865, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives, Huxley papers, 6: 100; for CD’s and Hooker’s exchange of views on the letters, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 June [1865], and the letters from J. D. Hooker, [26 May 1865], [2 June 1865], and [15 June 1865] and enclosure). Neither the letter to CD nor its enclosures have been found. Lyell later informed Huxley that he showed the correspondence to George Busk (letter from Charles Lyell to T. H. Huxley, 5 June 1865, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives, Huxley papers, 6: 104).
Lubbock consulted Busk and John Tyndall as well as Huxley and Hooker about his dispute with Lyell (letter from John Lubbock to Thomas Henry Huxley, 7 June 1865, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives, Huxley papers, 22: 64). Lubbock also consulted CD in person. In a letter to Henrietta Emma Darwin, [1 June 1865] (DAR 219.9: 28), Emma Darwin wrote: Papa has been greatly worried this mg by all the Lyell & Lubbock correspondence sent him by Sir C. & whereas after talking to John, he thought him not wrong, after seeing all the letters, he thinks he was quite wrong not to allude to Sir C’s explanation of the matter. He has written to this effect to Sir C. & I suppose this will be shewn to John L.
Lyell alludes to the note Lubbock had written at the end of the introduction to Prehistoric times (Lubbock 1865, p. x): Note – In his celebrated work on the ‘Antiquity of Man,’ Sir Charles Lyell has made much use of my earlier articles in the ‘Natural History Review,’ frequently, indeed, extracting whole sentences verbatim, or nearly so. But as he has in three cases omitted to mention the source from which his quotations were derived, my readers might naturally think that I had taken very unjustifiable liberties with the work of the eminent geologist. A reference to the respective dates will, however, protect me from any such inference. The statement made by Sir Charles Lyell, in a note to page 11 of his work, that my article on the Danish Shell-mounds was published after his sheets were written, is an inadvertence, regretted, I have reason to believe, as much by its author as it is by me. Lubbock refers to Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863c); the ‘article on Danish shell-mounds’ is Lubbock 1861. Lubbock published three further archaeological papers in the Natural History Review (Lubbock 1862a, 1862b, and 1863a). For Hooker’s early consideration of this note, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 May 1865] and n. 15.
The reference is to Lubbock 1865.
See n. 3, above. Lubbock had written to Lyell in March 1865 (letter from John Lubbock to Charles Lyell, 13 March 1865; University of Edinburgh, Lyell 1 Gen. 113/3644–5); Lyell’s reply has not been found.
The text of the note to which Lyell refers is as follows (C. Lyell 1863c, p. 11): Mr. John Lubbock published, after these sheets were written, an able paper on the Danish ‘shell-mounds’ in the October Number of the Natural History Review, 1861, p. 489, in which he has described the results of a recent visit to Denmark, made by him in company with Mr. Busk. In his letter to Lyell of 13 March 1865 (see n. 5, above), Lubbock pointed out that some passages in Lyell’s Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863c) were almost identical to sections of his own article on ancient Danish shell-mounds (‘kjökkenmöddings’, or kitchen-middens). He compared a passage from page 16 of Lyell 1863c with one from his own article (Lubbock 1861, p. 496). Lyell apparently replied, suggesting what Lubbock should say in the preface to Lubbock 1865. That letter has not been found, but Lyell’s undated rough notes for it (University of Edinburgh, Lyell 1 Gen. 113: 3646–8) contain the following comment: You can say that the early chapters were written many months & for some time in print before I availed myself of the information obtained from your paper to make a few additions & corrections but that I was unable to recast the first chapters which I must have done in order to do justice to all the new information which you had laid before the public. In all following references within Lyell’s letter where Lyell compares passages using only ‘Lyell p....’ and ‘Lubbock p....’ the references are to C. Lyell 1863c and Lubbock 1861.
Lyell refers to Morlot 1859, in which Charles Adolphe Morlot had summarised information on kitchen-middens contained in Danish reports on the subject (see n. 10, below). Lyell or his copyist accidentally wrote ‘1840’ for ‘1860’ as the year of publication of the Bulletin des Séances: Société Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles.
The reference is to Morlot 1861b. The translation first appeared in the Annual report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, showing the operations, expenditures, and condition of the institution for the year 1860 (Morlot 1861a). Morlot 1861b is an offprint of Morlot 1861a with different pagination.
Lyell refers to Oversigt over det Kongelige danske Videnskabernes Selskabs Forhandlinger og dets Medlemmers Arbeider. Notices of members’ research were published in this journal but more extensive reports were published as occasional papers under the auspices of the Kongelige danske Videnskabernes Selskab (Royal Danish Academy of Sciences). Six reports by Johan Georg Forchhammer, Japetus Steenstrup, and Jens Jacob Worsaae were published as occasional papers with the title Undersĺgelser i geologisk–antiquarisk Retning between 1851 and 1855 (Forchhammer et al. 1851–5). In his book, Lyell does not specifically cite the Danish material, other than to say it was summarised in Morlot 1859 (C. Lyell 1863c, p. 8).
Lyell refers to Lubbock 1861 and Lubbock 1862a; Lubbock 1862a was an article on ancient Swiss lake-dwellings.
The reference is to Ferdinand Keller and to the first five reports in a series of six articles on ancient lake-dwellings in Switzerland (Keller 1856–66). Keller published the sixth article in 1866, and the whole series appeared in English translation that year (Keller 1866).
Lyell claimed, in the note on page 11 of Lyell 1863c, that Lubbock had written his paper (Lubbock 1861) after Lyell had completed his chapter on Danish shell-mounds; see n. 6, above. Lyell’s explanation of the discrepancy is given in the third enclosure (letter from Charles Lyell to John Lubbock, 30 May 1865).
See n. 1, above. Lubbock and Lyell did not communicate directly after Lyell’s letter of 30 May 1865, but on the advice of Hooker and Huxley, Lubbock had the note at p. x of Lubbock 1865 deleted from all subsequent print-runs of the first edition (letter from John Lubbock to J. D. Hooker, 23 June 1865, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Letters to J. D. Hooker vol. 14, doc. 183–4).
The pages refer to C. Lyell 1863c. For the passages in Lubbock’s article that correspond to those in C. Lyell 1863c, pp. 10, 15, and 16, see Lubbock 1861, pp. 491–2, 500, and 502.
See n. 7, above. The passages Lubbock refers to are Lubbock 1861, p. 496, Lyell 1863c, p. 16, and Morlot 1859, p. 276.
Lubbock refers to Lubbock 1865 and C. Lyell 1863c.
The letter from Lyell has not been found; Lyell’s undated rough notes for the letter are in the University of Edinburgh (see n. 6, above).
Lubbock apparently discussed with several friends, including Huxley, Busk, and CD, what course of action he should take and received support for his decision to append the note quoted in n. 3, above, to the preface of Lubbock 1865 (see, for example, letter from Thomas Henry Huxley to John Lubbock, 7 March 1865, British Library MSS ADD 49641, and the letter from John Lubbock to J. D. Hooker, 23 June 1865, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Letters to J. D. Hooker vol. 14, doc. 183–4). In his letter to Hooker of 23 June 1865, Lubbock revealed that the note was written by an unnamed friend and added, Even Busk thought it was necessary for me to say something to prevent it being supposed that I was appropriating from Lyell; and I really do not see how it could have been put more mildly Lubbock had CD’s support, at least initially, as indicated by Emma Darwin in her letter to Henrietta Emma Darwin of [1 June 1865] (see n. 2, above).
The sixth edition of Elements of geology (C. Lyell 1865) was published in January 1865 (Publishers’ Circular, 17 January 1865, p. 3).
Lyell refers to the pagination in Morlot 1861b (see n. 8, above).
The reference is to Lubbock 1865, p. x.


Forchhammer, G. et al. 1851–5. Undersgelser i geologisk–antiquarisk Retning. Occasional papers of the Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskabs Oversigter for Aarene.

Keller, Ferdinand. 1856–66. Die keltischen Pfahlbauten in den Schweizerseen. Mittheilungen der antiquarischen Gesellschaft in Zürich 9 (1853–6): 65–100; 12 (1857–8): 111–56; 13 (1858–63): i–x; 14 (1858–63): 1–34, 129–88; 15 (1863–66): 245–321.

Keller, Ferdinand. 1866. The lake dwellings of Switzerland and other parts of Europe. Translated and arranged by John Edward Lee. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.

Lubbock, John. 1861a. The kjökkenmöddings: recent geologico-archæological researches in Denmark. Natural History Review n.s. 1: 489–504.

Lubbock, John. 1862c. On the ancient lake habitations of Switzerland. Natural History Review n.s. 2: 26–52.

Lubbock, John. 1862d. On the evidence of the antiquity of man, afforded by the physical structure of the Somme valley. Natural History Review n.s. 2: 244–69. [Vols. 10,11]

Lubbock, John. 1863f. A visit to the ancient shell-mounds of Scotland. Natural History Review n.s. 3: 415–22.

Lubbock, John. 1865a. Pre-historic times, as illustrated by ancient remains, and the manners and customs of modern savages. London and Edinburgh: Williams & Norgate.

Lyell, Charles. 1863c. The geological evidences of the antiquity of man with remarks on theories of the origin of species by variation. 3d edition, revised. London: John Murray.

Lyell, Charles. 1865. Elements of geology, or the ancient changes of the earth and its inhabitants as illustrated by geological monuments. 6th edition, revised. London: John Murray.

Morlot, Charles Adolphe. 1859. Etudes géologico-archéologiques en Danemark et en Suisse. [Read January 1859.] Bulletin des séances. Société Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles 6: 263–328.

Morlot, Charles Adolphe. 1861. General views on archæology. Annual report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution showing the operations, expenditures, and condition of the institution for the year 1860 15 (1861): 284–343. Translated by Philip Harry, Esq., for the Smithsonian Institution.

Morlot, Charles Adolphe. 1861. General views on archæology. Translated for the Smithsonian Institution by Philip Harry, Esq. Washington: n.p.


Emcloses copies of correspondence concerning his dispute with John Lubbock.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (JDH/2/1/14 f.323); The University of Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections (Gen. 113/3650–3, 3813–20, 3821–4)
Physical description
ALS 8pp C 24pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4844F,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13