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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Thurber   18–20 April 1868

New York

April 18th 1868

Mr Charles Darwin

My Dear Sir—

Our Excellent friend Doctor Gray sent me your note to him of March 11th. and added “you drop Darwin a line—it will be both well and pleasant, giving your address.”1

Assuming this to be a sufficient introduction, I will say that the publishing house is Orange Judd & Company, 245 Broadway. Besides publishing the most extensively circulated popular Agricultural Journal in the country, they are also the largest publishers of Agricultural books. My position with them is that of managing editor of the paper & general adviser with respect to books—

Although your book is a little out of the line of Agricultural works proper I had a strong desire that our house should republish it and had talked with the firm about making an arrangement with you through Gray.2 Soon after, Gray happened along and proposed the same thing himself. There was some delay in deciding, as I was obliged to run the book through to be able to assure them that it was not likely to upset the whole social fabric—for those who never read a word of your writings sometimes have odd notions about them. When it was concluded to reprint it was thought best to push it as rapidly as possible & we found that we could save time by transferring the cuts & re-engraving them here— We find it very desirable to not have odd sizes among our books, & yours is made of one of our standard sizes, a little smaller page. This involved changing the figures of the index—but I think it was accurately done— Though the volumes have not such a sumptuous air as the English they are very neat and I think you will not be displeased with them. They will sell at $6—while the imported is $14—

As to its sale, it is not easy to predict— The class of readers who are able to appreciate such a work is not proportionately so large with us as with you— The present work will not have the benefit of the abuse that fell to the Origin of Species—but I think that every one who has that would want this. I much hope it will be successful as I was mainly instrumental in its publication, as well as for the desire that something may accrue to you— I send some copies of our paper, the Agriculturist, that you may see something of what we are doing— You will find in the May Number—an illustrated notice of your work—3 You will perhaps regard it as rather undignified— if you do, you must consider the very popular character of the Journal—and that knowing my readers I presented it in a way most likely to interest them. Today I got the sheets of reprint from Gray and your M.S. corrections. As both volumes were printed these have to go in on a page or two of corrigenda.4 Should another edition be called for—they, with others, may be worked into the pages.

If you would care for it I should be pleased to continue to send the Agriculturist to you— It is the medium through which a large number of readers may be reached, and if you have occasion, as I see you do at home—to ask for information or observations on any particular points, I should be very glad to make your requests known—

Aside from an editorial interest in the matter, from a scientific point of view, I am delighted that we bring out your work— I have only read it, but intend to study it— Pangenesis makes one hold his breath.5 My friends think me Darwin mad—

I had no idea of making so long a letter & probably shall not have occasion to inflict you at such length again—

Allow me to present my sincere regards, and at the same time thank you for the instruction & pleasure your writings have given me—

Yours | George Thurber

245 Broadway. | New York.

Apr— 20th.

I did not send the foregoing as I wished it to go by the same steamer with the book—which was delayed a little at the binders. We shall try to have the work well reviewed— Gray will see to having notices in Sillimans Journal & Sprague will review it in the Atlantic.6 I met a few evenings ago the editor of the North American Review at the Dickens dinner, & he had already read the English edition & was full of it.7 The book & papers will go by this weeks steam. If I can be of any service to you here please command me

G. T.

CD annotations

Verso of last page: ‘Very kind & pleasant letter & for the copy of my Book. I most sincerely hope it may answer, but it is bold speculation. I am greatly indebted to you for your favourable opinion, which led to its publication in your country, which has naturally gratified me much.— | Pangenesis.— | Illustrations & wonderful [mass] of miscellaneous matter— I certainly shd much like to have copies for rest of year | Pike | Sexes’8 ink


Thurber refers to Variation.
Thurber refers to the American Agriculturist, a journal he had edited since 1863, and to [Thurber] 1868 (ANB). No copies of the magazine have been found in the Darwin Library.
CD probably sent corrections in late March (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 25 March [1868]). The ‘Author’s preface’ to the American edition is dated 28 March 1868; three pages of corrections are inserted following the preface (Variation US ed. 1: i–iv).
Thurber refers to CD’s hypothesis of heredity (see Variation 2: 357–404).
Gray’s review of Variation had appeared in the 19 March 1868 edition of the Nation ([A. Gray] 1868). Thurber probably refers to Isaac Sprague. An unsigned review of Variation appeared in the July 1868 issue of Atlantic Monthly ([Sprague?] 1868). A brief notice of the publication of the American edition of Variation is in American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 45 (1868): 411. The journal was popularly known as ‘Silliman’s Journal’ after its founder, Benjamin Silliman.
Thurber refers to Charles Eliot Norton and to a public dinner held on 18 April 1868 in New York in honour of Charles Dickens, who had been touring America since November 1867 (Meckier 1990, p. 238). Norton had delivered a short speech at the dinner (Vanderbilt 1959, p. 103).
CD’s annotations are notes for his reply to Thurber, which has not been found. In Descent 2: 14, CD cited an article in American Agricultural (1868), p. 100, for information on the colours of male pike during the breeding season.


ANB: American national biography. Edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. 24 vols. and supplement. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1999–2002.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

[Gray, Asa.] 1868. [Review of Variation.] Nation 6 (19 March 1868): 234–6.

Meckier, Jerome. 1990. Innocent abroad: Charles Dickens’s American engagements. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky.

[Thurber, George.] 1868. Varieties and variation. [Review of Variation.] American Agriculturalist 27: 176–7.

Vanderbilt, Kermit. 1959. Charles Eliot Norton: apostle of culture in a democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press.

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

Variation US ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. New York: Orange Judd & Co. [1868.]


About an American edition of Variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Thurber; (Orange Judd & Co.)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
New York
Source of text
DAR 178: 120
Physical description
ALS 7pp ††

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6129,” accessed on 30 September 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16