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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   12 July [1865]1

Down Bromley | Kent

July 12

My dear Huxley

I thank you most sincerely for having so carefully considered my M.S.2 It has been a real act of kindness. It wd have annoyed me extremely to have republished Buffon’s views, which I did not know of but I will get the book;3 & if I have strength I will also read Bonnet.4 I do not doubt your judgment is perfectly just & I will try to persuade myself not to publish.5 The whole affair is certainly much too speculative; yet I think some such view will have to be adopted, when I call to mind such facts as the inherited effects of use & disuse &c.6 But I will try to be cautious   Any how I shall have plenty of time for consideration for my health has been so bad of late that I have written nothing during the last 2 months.

Again accept my sincere thanks & believe me my dear Huxley yours very truly | Ch. Darwin

you have been very good to take so much trouble.—

P.S. I read with much interest your article in the Fortnightly Rev. & quite agree on all the points on which I cd judge.7 As usual you do me much honour.8

P.S. 2d.— Will you be so kind as to return the M.S of the so-called Pangenesis.9


The year is established by the reference to CD’s manuscript of the section on pangenesis for Variation, which CD had submitted to Huxley for criticism (see letter from T. H. Huxley, 1 June 1865).
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 27 May [1865] and n. 4. Huxley’s letter commenting on the manuscript on pangenesis has not been found.
CD refers to the views of Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, as expressed in his Histoire naturelle (Buffon et al. 1749–82). CD discussed Buffon’s ‘organic molecules’ in reference to his own theory of pangenesis in Variation 2: 375 n. 29. He wrote: If Buffon had assumed that his organic molecules had been formed by each separate unit throughout the body, his view and mine would have been closely similar. For CD’s theory of pangenesis as described in the manuscript he sent to Huxley, see the letter to T. H. Huxley, 27 May [1865], n. 7, and Olby 1963.
The reference is to Charles Bonnet. In Variation 2: 375 n. 29, CD contrasted his view of the nature of the germ or gemmule with that of Bonnet (Bonnet 1779–83, 5: 334). Unlike Bonnet, CD did not believe gemmules were pre-formed but held that they were continually produced throughout an organism’s lifespan with some passed on from earlier generations. For more on the theories of Buffon and Bonnet, see Roe 1981, pp. 15–18, 42–3, and passim.
CD greatly expanded and made considerable changes to the manuscript on pangenesis before it was published in Variation 2: 357–404 (see Olby 1963, p. 232, for a comparison of the two versions).
For CD’s discussion of the inherited effects of use and disuse in the manuscript on pangenesis, see Olby 1963, p. 237.
CD refers to T. H. Huxley 1865. See letter from Edward Cresy, 9 June 1865 and n. 7. A lightly annotated copy of T. H. Huxley 1865 is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Huxley described CD’s theory of descent as ‘the key to ethnology … reconciling and combining all that is good in the Monogenistic and Polygenistic schools’ (T. H. Huxley 1865, p. 275). He noted that although CD had not applied his theory to ethnology, others such as Alfred Russel Wallace had, and he concluded that natural selection could account for racial variation in humans (ibid. p. 276). For Wallace’s views on the subject, see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from A. R. Wallace, 10 May 1864, and for CD’s response, see ibid., letter to A. R. Wallace, 28 [May 1864].


Bonnet, Charles. 1779–83. Œuvres d’histoire naturelle et de philosophie. 8 vols. Neuchatel: l’imprimerie de Samuel Fauche, Libraire du Roi.

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

Olby, Robert. 1963. Charles Darwin’s manuscript of pangenesis. British Journal for the History of Science 1: 251–63.

Roe, Shirley A. 1981. Matter, life, and generation. Eighteenth-century embryology and the Haller–Wolff debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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


Thanks THH for reading Pangenesis MS. Will read Buffon and Bonnet (as he does not want to republish their views) and will try to persuade himself not to publish.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 219)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4870,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

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