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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Whewell   16 February [1839]

Saturday Feb. 16th.—

Dear Whewell

I hope you will excuse, what I am going to say.— You alluded yesterday evening to the delay in the publication of my volume in rather strong terms; although I do not deny, that this delay has much deranged my plans of publication, yet as the circumstance of any naturalist being on board the Beagle is entirely due to Captain FitzRoy’s wish, and as by the custom of the Navy, the Captain of such a vessel is considered to have a right to the first use of all the papers belonging to the officers on board (a right, which FitzRoy did not enforce) I should be very sorry that anything should be publickly said, which might annoy him: and I fear your remarks of yesterday were too pointed not to have that effect in a considerable degree. I hope, therefore, you will oblige me, by considering whether you could not alter the passages referred to, without any inconsistency on your part.—1

I cannot pass by this opportunity, without thanking you, with great sincerity for the kind manner you have treated me.— I do not allude only to the very flattering manner you notice me in your Address, which I trust, will have the effect you intend, in making me a steady follower of Geology, but to the manner of your whole intercourse with me, since my return to England.

I assure you I fully appreciate this, & know from what kind of person it comes.

Believe me dear Whewell | Your’s truly obliged | Chas. Darwin 12 Upper Gower Stt.—


Whewell’s Presidential Address was delivered at the Anniversary meeting of the Geological Society, 15 February 1839. It is not known whether Whewell altered his remarks. As published, they read as follows: ‘In speaking of Mr. Darwin’s researches I cannot refrain from expressing for myself, and I am sure I may add for you, our disappointment and regret that the publication of Mr. Darwin’s journal has not yet taken place. Knowing, as we do, that this journal contains many valuable contributions to science, we cannot help lamenting, that the customs of the Service by which the survey was conducted have not yet allowed this portion of the account of its results to be given to the world.’ (Whewell 1839, p. 93). See also Correspondence vol. 30, Supplement, letter to William Lonsdale, [27 April 1839 or earlier].


Whewell, William. 1839. Address to the Geological Society, delivered at the anniversary, on the 15th February, 1839. Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 3 (1838–42): 61–98.


Asks WW to alter, before printing, the passages in WW’s Presidential Address to the Geological Society [Proc. Geol. Soc. Lond. 3 (1839): 93] which pointedly allude to the delay in publication of CD’s Beagle journal; they might annoy FitzRoy, who, as Captain, has a right to first use of the papers of all officers on board.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Whewell
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
Trinity College Library, Cambridge (Add c 88: 4)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 496,” accessed on 13 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2