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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. V. Carus   11 April [1867]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Ap 11

My dear Sir

First for my own book: I am quite delighted to hear that you will undertake the translation. I am sorry to say my book is very large, much larger I fear than it is worth. A considerable part is a compilation, but it contains a good many original observations. I advised Schweizerbart not to undertake the publication until he had submitted a large part to some competent judge; but he seems resolved & I am of course glad of it.2

It consists of 2 Vols. large 8vo. with I fear at least 500 pages in each. The 2 Vols will be published together next Nov.3 I have already corrected 250 pages & I suppose the first clean sheets will soon be printed off, & they shall be sent direct to you. I have written to Murray about the stereotypes.4 I fear from what you say about yr many works in hand, that there must be a considerable delay in the German edition.5

With respect to Haeckel’s book, I admire & quite sympathize with all that you say about him with so much kindness & frankness. I agree with you that the book is too large.6 It is, also, I believe bad policy to speak so positively as he does about any disputed theory.

I am so poor a German scholar that I have read here & there only portions, but these seem to me to be put with admirable clearness, force & method. With respect to the severity of his criticisms I am in a difficulty, for I do not know German well enough to perceive the sting of all his remarks, & these passages I have merely skimmed over. Nevertheless I have stumbled on some severe & contemptuous remarks on difft authors; & Fritz Müller has written to me from Desterro to the same general effect with you.7 Hence I can, without mentioning any names, say that I have heard from several quarters of the severity of his criticisms, & I will speak strongly how injudicious I think this is, for my experience leads me to agree with you that severe strictures do no good, but only cause bitter anger.8 I fear however that my remonstrance will be of no use, for when a man has once taken to writing in letters of blood & is conscious of his own power, he seldom, as far as I see, is ever cured of this bad practice.

With sincere respect I remain | my dear Sir yours very truly | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. V. Carus, 5 April 1867.
Carus had confirmed his willingness to undertake the German translation of Variation in his letter of 5 April 1867. CD’s letters to Christian Friedrich Schweizerbart, the publisher of Carus’s translation, have not been found; a draft letter to E. Schweizerbart’sche Buchhandlung of [19 March 1867] does not mention submitting the book to a reviewer.
The first volume of Variation contained 411 pages, and the second 486, excluding preliminaries. They were published in January 1868 (Freeman 1977).
CD refers to John Murray, the English publisher of Variation; see letter to John Murray, 10 April [1867].
Carus had written that he would be very much occupied for the next year; see letter from J. V. Carus, 5 April 1867.
Carus had criticised the aggressive tone and the length of Ernst Haeckel’s Generelle Morphologie (Haeckel 1866) in his letter to CD of 5 April 1867.
The letter to CD in which Müller criticised Haeckel 1866 has not been found; however, Müller remarked in a letter to his brother, Hermann Müller, of 11 February 1867 (Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 115–16), that the book would stir up controversy.
Carus had suggested CD write to Haeckel explaining that his combative style did CD no service (letter from J. V. Carus, 5 April 1867).


Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Haeckel, Ernst. 1866. Generelle Morphologie der Organismen. Allgemeine Grundzüge der organischen Formen-Wissenschaft, mechanisch begründet durch die von Charles Darwin reformirte Descendenz-Theorie. 2 vols. Berlin: Georg Reimer.

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


CD is delighted that JVC will undertake translation of Variation.

Agrees with JVC’s opinion of Haeckel’s book [Generelle Morphologie (1866)]. CD believes it is bad policy for Haeckel to speak so positively about a disputed theory [i.e., CD’s] and particularly regrets the severity of EH’s criticisms of other authors.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5498,” accessed on 22 September 2020,

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