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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   22 August [1867]1

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

Aug 22

My dear Lyell

I thank you cordially for your two last letters. The former one did me real good, for I had got so wearied with the subject that I cd hardly bear to correct the proofs, & you gave me fresh heart. I remember thinking that when you came to the pigeon chapter you wd pass it over as quite unreadable.2

Your last letter has interested me in very many ways, & I have been glad to hear about those horrid unbelieving French men.3 I have been particularly pleased that you have noticed Pangenesis. I do not know whether you ever had the feeling of having thought so much over a subject that you had lost all power of judging it. This is my case with Pangen: (which is 26 or 27 years old!) but I am inclined to think that if it be admitted as a probable hypothesis, it will be a somewhat important step in Biology.4

I cannot help still regretting that you have even looked at the slips, for I hope to improve the whole a good deal. It is surprizing to me & delightful that you shd care in the least about the plants. Altogether you have given me one of the best cordials I ever had in my life, & I heartily thank you. I despatched this mg the French edit. The introduction was a complete surprize to me, & I dare say has injured the book in France; nevertheless with all its bad judgment & taste it shews I think that the woman is uncommonly clever.5 Once again many thanks for the renewed courage with which I shall attack the horrid proof sheets.

Our kind love to Lady Lyell—6 | yours affectly | Charles Darwin

You can leave the French Edit. at 6 Queen Anne st, when finished.—7 A Russian who is translating my new Book into Russian, Kowalewsky, has been here, & says you are immensely read in Russia & many editions, how many I forget.— Six Editions of Buckle! & 4 Editions of Origin.8


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Charles Lyell, 4 August 1867.
CD refers to Lyell’s letter of 4 August 1867 and to a later letter (see n. 3, below). Lyell read proof-sheets of Variation that CD had sent, and praised both the text and illustrations in his letter of 4 August 1867.
Lyell had recently attended the Paris exhibition (see letter from Charles Lyell, 4 August 1867 and n. 1). His letter, evidently written during or after his visit to France, has not been found.
CD discussed pangenesis, his theory of hereditary transmission, in Variation 2: 357–404. He had written an earlier version of the essay and solicited advice on it from Thomas Henry Huxley in 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13; see also Olby 1963 and Geison 1969 for more on the development of the hypothesis).
CD sent a copy of the second French edition of Origin (Royer trans. 1866) to Lyell. The translator, Clémence Auguste Royer, had revised her preface since the first edition (Royer trans. 1862; for more on the changes to both the preface and text, see J. Harvey 1997, pp. 76–9).
The address is that of CD’s brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin, in London. CD visited London from 17 to 24 September 1867 (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix II)).
The date of Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky’s visit to CD has not been determined. Two Russian editions of Origin had been published (Rachinskii trans. 1864 and Rachinskii trans. 1865), but Kovalevsky may have been including reprints as editions. Lyell’s Principles of geology was translated into Russian in 1866 and Antiquity of man in 1864; Manual of elementary geology appeared in two volumes between 1866 and 1878 (GSE, s.v. Lyell, Charles). Henry Thomas Buckle’s History of civilisation in England (Buckle 1857–61) appeared in Russian as part of an edition of collected works in 1861 and as a separate volume in 1863 (GSE, s.v. Buckle, Henry Thomas).


Buckle, Henry Thomas. 1857–61. History of civilization in England. 2 vols. London: John W. Parker & Son.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Geison, Gerald L. 1969. Darwin and heredity: the evolution of his hypothesis of pangenesis. Journal of the History of Medicine 24: 375–411.

GSE: Great Soviet encyclopedia. Edited by Jean Paradise et al. 31 vols. (Translation of the 3d edition of Bol’shaya Sovetskaya entsiklopediya (Большая советская энциклопедия), edited by A. M. Prokhorov.) New York: Macmillan. London: Collier Macmillan. 1973–83.

Olby, Robert. 1963. Charles Darwin’s manuscript of pangenesis. British Journal for the History of Science 1: 251–63.

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 CL for comments [on Variation].

Thinks Pangenesis would be important step in biology if admitted as probable.

Introduction to French edition [of Origin] has injured the book.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.332)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5612,” accessed on 6 July 2022,

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