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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Lewes   18 November 1868

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

Nov. 18 1868

My dear Mr Lewes

I shall be delighted to propose you for the Linn. Soc.   As Mr Busk is familiar with what is usually done will you ask him to fill up the printed form with your claims for admission, & second it, & be so kind as to forward it to me.1 I will then return it to the Society or to you as I may be directed. I think you will not repent of joining the Society which deserves patronage.

As Sir C. Lyell is very much engaged, not to mention his advanced years, I am very doubtful whether he will feel inclined to put his remarks on paper, though he was certainly very much interested by your articles.2 I will however write to him by today’s post & hint your request, leaving it quite open to him to comply or not.3

As for my own opinion I have no objection to your “germinal membrane” developing 1000 forms of life, if you will allow me to kill all in the course of time except as many as there are leading types.4 I do not think I shall ever be convinced that organisms belonging to the same type, having a similar embryological development or homological structure, & graduating into each other with no very wide intervals, are the offspring of primordially distinct so-called creations.

All the arguments from Geograph Distrib, Geolog: Succession & mutual affinities, which arguments appear now to be fairly harmonious, wd be greatly invalidated, as it appears to me, if your views were admitted. This I think is Lyell’s main objection.

I thoroughly enjoyed my hour’s talk with you & Mrs Lewes5—& I remain | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S.— There is much truth in what Prof. Weismann insists on, that the nature of the organism which is acted on is as important as, or more important a factor in the resultant variability, than the conditions of life.—6 This I have also insisted on in very strong language & shown to be the case in my last book.—7 Now if two distinct independently produced primordial organisms, were exposed to precisely similar conditions, they would vary differently, besides inheriting differently, & therefore I cannot believe that they could be developed to form members of the same type or group.— All the curious cases insisted on by Fritz Müller of the same end being gained by analogous & not strictly homologous structures, seem to me to point to a similar conclusion.—8


CD’s letter to Lyell has not been found.
Lewes had suggested that ‘the earth at the dawn of Life was like a vast germinal membrane, every slightly diversified point producing its own vital form’ (Lewes 1868b, p. 494). For CD’s earlier detailed response to the first three parts of Lewes 1868b, see the enclosure to the letter to G. H. Lewes, 7 August [1868].
Marian Evans (George Eliot).
CD refers to August Weismann and Weismann 1868, pp. 27–9.
See Variation 2: 291, 418–20.
In Für Darwin (F. Müller 1864, pp. 20–6; W. S. Dallas trans. 1869, pp. 30–8), Müller had described differences in the structure and location of the air-breathing apparatus in different species of crabs that lived or spent time on land.


Lewes, George Henry. 1868b. Mr. Darwin’s hypotheses. Fortnightly Review n.s. 3: 353–73, 611–28; 4: 61–80, 492–509.

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

Weismann, August. 1868. Über die Berechtigung der Darwin’schen Theorie: ein akademischer Vortrag gehalten am 8 Juli 1868 in der Aula der Universität zu Freiburg im Breisgau. Leipzig: W. Engelmann.


Will propose GHL for the Linnean Society.

Writes of his objections to GHL’s views.

Considers Weismann’s remarks on the importance of the nature of the organism as well as conditions of life in determining variability have much truth.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Henry Lewes
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 185: 44, 56
Physical description
LS(A) 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6465,” accessed on 16 April 2024,

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