skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Julius Victor Carus   7 November 1866

39, Elsterstrasse | Leipzig,

Nov. 7 1866.

My dear Sir,

Probably you will know already, that Mr. Schweizerbart, the publisher of Bronn’s translation of your work on the origin of species, has asked me to revise this translation, to mend and correct it as far as possible.1 It is with the greatest pleasure that I will try to do it, partly because I am fully convinced that this work is the most important of our time, partly as it give me the opportunity to thank you not only for the copy of your work you sent me when it came out first,2 but especially for the immense good you did with it to organic sciences in general. Yet, I should have scarcely ventured to write to you directly, if I had not to ask you to help me out of a puzzle. Surely the late Professor Bronn was one of our ablest naturalists and I have the greatest regard for his truly philosophical and earnest endeavours to bring Zoology on a higher, a more scientifical footing. But for one reason or another, because he was a “natural philosopher” of the old German school3 or because he was too much of a describing Zoologist, he was too anxious to allow your work to act freely upon the German public. According to the opinion of most of my younger colleagues he did not even deal fairly with it. I should not like to go as far as this, but I must confess, that I dislike strongly that sort of authoritative doubt and that sometimes quite ludicrous display of a so called higher scientific argumentation which he shows in his “Anmerkungen” and especially in his Epilogue.4 But here comes my difficulty. You will be of course the most interested that your work should be presented to the German reader in a fair and unprejudiced form. Now do you think it fair of me, when I leave off all those remarks of Bronn’s which are according to my scientific conscience almost equal to nothing. Do you think it compatible with the due regard to Bronn’s memory if I was to separate his “Schlusswort”5 from the body of your work, with which it had nothing at all to do, and to modify it according to my views of the question? I think I may do it. As the first two editions of his translation are existing, the history of the Science will take due notice of his position. But for my part I should not like to propagate his doubts, especially as I pointed already 1853 in my System of animal morphology (p. 5) to the genealogical connexion of the present and past forms of animal life.6 If you would be so good as to write with one word that I may have liberty to do as I like best, I should be very much obliged to you.

Mr. Schweizerbart sent me some corrections Dr. Caspary had pointed out.7 Most of these I knew before. With regard to the Guinea-fowl which is said to have been wrongly translated by Bronn, I must say, here Bronn was right. It is the Perlhuhn. But in that place you marked (p. 17 of the first English edition) you changed Guinea-fowl into Goose.8

Allow me once more to say how much I am delighted to be able to associate my name in a way ever so humble with your work and believe me | My dear Sir | Yours most truly and respectfully. | Prof J. Victor Carus


Christian Friedrich Schweizerbart approached Carus to supervise the production of a translation of the fourth edition of Origin after the job had been turned down by Gustav von Leonhard and Hans Bruno Geinitz (see letter from E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 26 October 1866 and n. 4). Two earlier German editions of Origin (Bronn trans. 1860 and 1863) had been translated by Heinrich Georg Bronn, who died in 1862.
Thomas Henry Huxley had recommended Carus for CD’s presentation list for the first edition of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix III).
Carus refers to Naturphilosophie: ‘the theory … that there is an eternal and unchanging law of nature, proceeding from the Absolute, from which all laws governing natural phenomena and forces derive’ (OED). For more on Naturphilosophie and research in natural history, see Rehbock 1983 and Jardine 1996.
CD had suggested that Bronn append ‘notes of refutation or confirmation’ to the translation of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to H. G. Bronn, 4 February [1860]). The first two German editions of Origin (Bronn trans. 1860 and Bronn trans. 1863) contained several notes added by Bronn, elaborating on certain points or engaging in theoretical discussion of CD’s views. In addition, a twenty-five page epilogue written by Bronn attempted to guide the reader’s assessment of CD’s theory in light of Bronn’s own critical review of what he considered to be the main issues (see Bronn trans. 1860, pp. 495–520).
‘Schlusswort’: epilogue.
The reference is to System der thierischen Morphologie (Carus 1853).
Robert Caspary’s letter to Schweizerbart has not been found.
In the fourth edition of Origin, CD had changed the word ‘guinea-fowl’ to ‘goose’ in the sentence that, in the first three editions, read, ‘Has the little variability of the ass or guinea-fowl … prevented their domestication?’ (see Origin 4th ed., p. 18, and Peckham ed. 1959, p. 90).


Carus, Julius Victor. 1853. System der thierischen Morphologie. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

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

Jardine, Nicholas. 1996. Naturphilosophie and the kingdoms of nature. In Cultures of natural history, edited by Nicholas Jardine et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

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: 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.

Rehbock, Philip F. 1983. The philosophical naturalists. Themes in early nineteenth-century British biology. Madison, Wis., and London: University of Wisconsin Press.


JVC has been asked by Schweizerbart [CD’s German publisher] to revise H. G. Bronn’s translation of Origin, and he will be pleased to try to do it.

Asks CD’s advice on what to do about Bronn’s notes and concluding chapter, with which JVC disagrees. Would CD agree to omission?

Letter details

Letter no.
Julius Victor Carus
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 53
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5269,” accessed on 13 August 2020,

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