skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   1 June [1867]1

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

June 1st

My dear Lyell

I do not think H. Parker ever reviewed the Origin: perhaps you are thinking of an article on the D. of Argyll, which I remember praising, perhaps over-praising, to you.— I now enclose it, & you can look at it or not as you like, & please return it.—2 I am at present reading the Duke & am very much interested by him; yet I cannot but think, clever as the whole is, that parts are weak, as when he doubts whether each curvature of beak of Humming Birds is of service to each species. He admits, perhaps too fully, that I have shown use of each little ridge & shape of each petal in Orchids, & how strange he does not extend the view to Humming Birds. Still odder, it seems to me, all that he says on Beauty, which I shd have thought a non entity except in the mind of some sentient being: he might have as well said that Love existed during the Secondary or Palæozoic periods.3

I hope you are getting on with your Book, better than I am with mine, which kills me with the labour of correcting & is intolerably dull, though I did not think so when I was writing it.4 A naturalist’s life wd. be a happy one, if he had only to observe & never to write.—

We shall be in London for a week in about a fortnights time, & I shall enjoy having a break-fast talk with you.—5

Yours affectionately | C. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to G. D. Campbell 1867 (see n. 3, below).
No letter from Lyell enquiring about a review by CD’s nephew Henry Parker has been found. CD refers to [Parker] 1862, an article in the Saturday Review discussing [G. D. Campbell] 1862, a review of Orchids by the duke of Argyll, George Douglas Campbell. See Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [before 29 December 1862] and n. 4, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 29 [December 1862]. No copy of [Parker] 1862 has been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL; there is an annotated copy of [G. D. Campbell] 1862 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. No discussion between CD and Lyell on [G. D. Campbell] 1862 has been found, but see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from Charles Lyell, 16 January 1865, and letter to Charles Lyell, 22 January [1865], for their discussion of G. D. Campbell 1864. For more on CD’s view of Campbell’s arguments, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1867].
CD refers to Campbell’s The reign of law (G. D. Campbell 1867); there is an annotated copy in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 17). Campbell suggested that specialised beaks did not give the greatest possible advantage to humming-birds, which had equal access to a wide range of flora, and that the rule governing the proliferation of humming-bird species had as its object rather ‘the mere multiplying of Life, and the fitting of new Forms for new spheres of enjoyment’ (G. D. Campbell 1867, pp. 241–2). His discussion of orchids is in ibid., pp. 37–9. He argued that the phenomena of nature would never be understood except on the admission that ‘mere ornament or beauty’ was ‘in itself a purpose, an object, and an end’ (ibid, p. 197), and ‘was not intended only for Man’s admiration’ (ibid., p. 199).
Lyell was working on the second volume of the tenth edition of his Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1867–8); see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to Charles Lyell, 1 December [1866], n. 2). CD was correcting the proof-sheets of Variation (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
The Darwins were in London from 17 to 24 June (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). No record has been found of a meeting with Lyell.


[Campbell, George Douglas.] 1862. [Review of Orchids and other works.] Edinburgh Review 116: 378–97.

Campbell, George Douglas. 1864. Opening address, 1864–5 session. [Read 5 December 1864.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 5 (1862–6): 264–92.

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–.

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.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

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.

[Parker, Henry.] 1862. The Edinburgh review on the supernatural. Saturday Review, 15 November 1862, pp. 589–90.

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


Comments on a discussion of humming-birds by the Duke of Argyll [in The reign of law (1867)].

Encloses article by Henry Parker on the Duke’s book [Saturday Rev. 23 (1867): 82–4].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.328)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5558,” accessed on 1 June 2023,

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