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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   8 March [1866]1

Down | Bromley Kent

Mar 8

My dear Lyell

Many thanks for your interesting letter.2 From the serene elevation of my old age I look down with amazement at your youth, vigour & indomitable energy.3

With respect to Hooker & the axis of the earth, I suspect he is too much over worked to consider now any subject properly.4 His mind is so acute & critical that I always expect to hear a torrent of objections to any thing proposed; but he is so candid that he often comes round in a year or two. I have never thought on the causes of the glacial period, for I feel that the subject is beyond me;5 but, though I hope you will own that I have generally been a good & docile pupil to you, yet I must confess that I cannot believe in change of land & water being more than a subsidiary agent:6 I have come to this conclusion from reflecting on the geograph. distribution of the inhabitants of the sea on the opposite sides of all our continents, & of the inhabitants of the continents themselves.7

But now to business— I send by this post the M.S.: if any will be of use to you, I think it will be the pages tied together by green ribbon, which have appeared in the second German & French editions & will come in this summer in the English edition.8 Please return these pages in about a week’s time; the rest you may keep as long as you like. This rest is the old M.S. which I abstracted for the Origin9 & I doubt whether you will find it of any use; but if you read it possibly one or two facts may be new to you. I have thought it best also to send some pencil notes & a letter from Hooker after he had read this 10 yr old M.S.10

Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin

Footnotes

The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Charles Lyell, 5 March 1866.
CD was in fact twelve years younger than Lyell.
CD refers to Joseph Dalton Hooker, and to the letter from J. D. Hooker, 21 February 1866, which CD had forwarded to Lyell at Hooker’s request (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 or 27 February 1866], and letter to J. D. Hooker, [28 February 1866]). Hooker referred to the demands of his work and lack of time in all his letters to CD in February 1866 (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 4 February 1866, 21 February 1866, and [26 or 27 February 1866]).
Although every edition of Origin has lengthy discussions of how the glacial period affected the distribution of plants and animals, consideration of the causes of glaciation appeared only in the fifth and sixth editions (Origin 5th ed., pp. 451–2, and Origin 6th ed., p. 336; see also letter from Charles Lyell, 10 March 1866, n. 8).
According to Lyell, former extremes of climate were induced by changes in the position of land and sea on the surface of the globe (see C. Lyell 1853, pp. 110–11, and subsequent editions of his Principles of geology). On CD’s earlier disagreement with Lyell’s view, see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 September [1864] and n. 10. CD had formerly refrained from expressing his disagreement directly to Lyell (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to A. C. Ramsay, 5 September [1862]).
In Origin 4th ed., p. 427, CD enumerated ‘several facts in distribution’ as evidence against the view that there had been large changes in the position and extent of continents. CD’s facts included the great difference in the marine faunas on the opposite sides of continents, and the similarity between contemporary organisms in some areas and their counterparts of the Tertiary era. For more on CD’s views about geographical distribution and the former extent of continents, see, for example, Correspondence vol. 13, letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 and 28 [October 1865] and nn. 11 and 12.
CD refers to the chapter on geographical distribution in the manuscript of his ‘big book’ on species (Natural selection, pp. 534–66; see letter to Charles Lyell, [3 March 1866] and n. 6). CD also refers to manuscript pages of additions to the second German edition of Origin (Bronn trans. 1863), and the second French edition (Royer trans. 1866). The fourth edition of Origin was published in November 1866 (Publishers’ Circular 1866). For details of the additions and corrections to the second German edition of Origin, see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VIII.
CD refers to the manuscript of chapter 11 of his ‘big book’ on species; see n. 8, above. The chapter was reworked as chapter 11, and page 399 in chapter 12, of Origin.
Hooker’s pencil notes on the manuscript of chapter 11 of CD’s ‘big book’ on species are in the Darwin Archive–CUL (DAR 100: 109–10). CD also refers to the letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 November 1856 (Correspondence vol. 6). Hooker’s notes on the chapter are reproduced as a memorandum with that letter in Correspondence vol. 6, and in Natural selection, pp. 575–7. A copy of the manuscript of the chapter, with annotations by Hooker, is in the Darwin Archive–CUL (DAR 14: D1–47).

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

Origin 5th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 5th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1869.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

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.

Summary

Gives details of enclosed MS on cool period. Mentions Hooker’s opposed "axis of the earth" view. Causes of glacial period are beyond CD; "cannot believe change in land and water being more than a subsidiary agent".

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-5028
From
Charles Robert Darwin
To
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Down
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.316)
Physical description
4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5028,” accessed on 11 December 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-5028.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14

letter