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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Erasmus Darwin   27 [March 1867]1



My dear old William

The jacket has just come & is splendid. Your present & thinking of me has pleased me much. I do not suppose I shall use it much this Spring, but it will be the very comfort of my life next winter. I thank you heartily.—

I have not yet read the Duke & Heaven knows when I shall get the time, but I am inclined to agree with you from all that I have heard.2

Mamma has several times declared that the Duke did not understand the Origin, but I pooh-poohed her, & as it seems very unjustly.3 We have been amused at how a Duke, as you say, looks at the Creator. I must try & read the book before long.—4

I am working very hard at proof-sheets & odious dull work it is & will be for the next 4 or 5 months. I fear the book is by no means worth the confounded labour.—5

Horace keeps much the same; he had a fever-fit today, which has disappointed me, as he escaped yesterday.6 I fear the fever will now run on for another week & if so he will be much reduced.— Poor little fellow he is very patient & sweet.—

Goodnight— your present has pleased me much | Your affectionate Father | C. Darwin

Hooker’s Baby, I hear, causes much anxiety—7


The month and year are established by the reference to The reign of law (see n. 2, below), the reference to Horace Darwin’s fever (see n. 6, below), and by CD’s concern for the health of Joseph Dalton Hooker’s baby; the baby’s health improved in early April (see n. 7, below, and letter from F. H. Hooker, [6 April 1867]).
CD had received other queries and comments on The reign of law, by George Douglas Campbell, duke of Argyll (Campbell 1867; see letter from T. H. Huxley, [before 7 January 1867], letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 February 1867, and letter from W. H. K. Gibbons, 7 February 1867). No letter from William on the subject has been found.
Joseph Dalton Hooker had also stated that Campbell did not understand Origin or Orchids (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 and] 20 November [1862]).
Campbell argued that the natural laws outlined in Origin were set in motion and controlled by God, and that God was therefore still controlling all life through the laws, or the ‘Forces of Nature’, and their relationships to each other through the ‘principle of adjustment’. He wrote, for example (Campbell 1867, pp. 126–7): It is, indeed, the completeness of the analogy between our own works on a small scale, and the works of the Creator on an infinitely large scale, which is the greatest mystery of all. Man is under constraint to adopt the principle of Adjustment, because the Forces of Nature are external to and independent of his Will. They may be managed, but they cannot be disobeyed.... How imperious they are, yet how submissive! How they reign, yet how they serve! CD read Campbell 1867 in June 1867 (see letter to Charles Lyell, 1 June [1867] and letter to Charles Kingsley, 10 June [1867]).
CD began correcting the proof-sheets of Variation at the beginning of March 1867 and finished 15 November 1867 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix II)).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Horace, their youngest son, returned to Down from school on 16 March 1867 with a fever, and began taking quinine on 1 April. For 27 March, Emma recorded ‘fever at 4’.
Hooker had just written that Reginald Hawthorn Hooker was suffering periodic convulsions (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 [and 27] March 1867).


Campbell, George Douglas. 1867. The reign of law. London: Alexander Strahan.

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

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

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.

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


Thanks WED for a present.

Discusses the Duke of Argyll’s Reign of law [1867].

Is busy revising proofs [of Variation].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 121
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5466,” accessed on 1 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15