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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   9 October [1866]1


Oct 9th

My dear Lyell

One line to say that I have received your note & the Proofs safely, & will read them with greatest pleasure;2 but I am certain I shall not be able to send any criticism on the Astronomical Chapter, as I am as ignorant as a pig on this head.3

I shall require some days to read what has been sent. I have just read Chapter IX & like it extremely: it all seems to me very clear, cautious & sagacious.4 You do not allude to one very striking point enough or at all, viz the classes having been formerly less differentiated than they now are; & this specialisation of classes must, we may conclude, fit them for different general habits of life, as well as the specialisation of particular organs.—

p. 162 I rather demur to your argument from Cetacea; as they are such greatly modified mammals, they ought to have come in, rather late in the series.5

You will think me impudent, but the discussion at end of Ch IX on man, who thinks so much of his fine self, seems to me too long or rather superfluous & too orthodox, except for the beneficed clergy.—6

Ever yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to receiving proofs of C. Lyell 1867–8 (see n. 2, below).
Lyell’s note has not been found. CD refers to proofs of the first volume of the tenth edition of Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1867–8). The first volume of C. Lyell 1867–8 was advertised in Publishers’ Circular, 15 November 1866, p. 722.
The reference is to chapter 13 of C. Lyell 1867–8, ‘Vicissitudes of climate, how far influenced by astronomical changes’ (1: 268–304).
Chapter 9 of C. Lyell 1867–8 (1: 146–73), which dealt with the progressive development of organic life, had been entirely re-written (see C. Lyell 1867–8, 1: iii).
CD refers to Lyell’s argument that, since whale bones could hardly escape the notice of collectors, the fact that no cetacean fossils had ever been found in pre-Eocene strata suggested that it was highly unlikely that many fossil mammals would be found in earlier strata (C. Lyell 1867–8, 1: 163).
CD refers to the section ‘Introduction of man, to what extent a change of the system’ (C. Lyell 1867–8, 1: 167–73). For CD’s differences with Lyell over human origins, and on his disappointment with Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863), see especially Correspondence vol. 11.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Lyell, Charles. 1867–8. Principles of geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants considered as illustrative of geology. 10th edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray.


Comments on proofs [of Principles of geology, 10th ed. (1867–8)]: CL does not allude to the specialisation of classes.

Discusses CL’s argument from the absence of Cetacea in Secondary rocks;

finds his discussion of man "superfluous and too orthodox".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.320)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5236,” accessed on 22 April 2021,

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