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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   4 May [1869]1

Down. | Beckenham. | Kent. S.E.

May 4th

My dear Lyell

I have been applied to for some photographs (carte de visite) to be copied to ornament the Diplomas of Hon. members of a new Nat. Soc in Servia!!!2 Will you give me one for this purpose? I possess only a full-length one of you in my own album, & the face is too small, I think, to be copied.—

I hope that you get on well with your work & have satisfied yourself on the difficult point of glacier-lakes.—3 Thank Heaven I have finished correcting the new edit. of Origin, & am at my old work of Sexual selection.—4

Wallace’s article struck me as admirable. How well he brought out the revolution which you effected some thirty years ago.5 I thought I had fully appreciated the revolution, but I was astounded at the extracts from Cuvier.—6 What a good sketch of nat. selection, but I was dreadfully disappointed about man: it seems to me incredibly strange & weak; & had I not known to the contrary, would have sworn it had been inserted by some other hand.—7 But I believe that you will not agree quite in all this.

My dear Lyell | Ever yours sincerely | C. Darwin

I have got over my crushing by my horse wonderfully—3 weeks, instead of 3 months as Paget expected.8


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Spiridion Brusina, 29 April 1869.
See letter from Spiridion Brusina, 29 April 1869. ‘Servia’ was an alternative spelling of ‘Serbia’.
CD refers to Lyell’s reluctance to accept the theory proposed by Andrew Crombie Ramsay of the glacial origin of rock basins (Ramsay 1862). For more on the controversy, and Lyell’s alternative explanation, see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to Charles Lyell, 21 February [1865] and nn. 7 and 8, and letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865 and n. 10, and Davies [1969], pp. 304–7.
CD refers to Origin 5th ed. and to Descent.
Wallace reviewed Lyell’s Principles of geology and Elements of geology (C. Lyell 1865 and 1867–8) in the Quarterly Review ([Wallace] 1869b). The ‘revolution’ was Lyell’s refutation of catastrophism in geology and proposal of what came to be known as uniformitarianism (see [Wallace] 1869b, pp. 363–4).
In [Wallace] 1869b, pp. 360–3, Georges Cuvier’s approach to geology was reviewed. See letter to A. R. Wallace, 14 April 1869 and n. 2.
See [Wallace] 1869b, pp. 391–3. See also letter from A. R. Wallace, 24 March 1869 and n. 10.
James Paget had visited CD on 21 April 1869 (see letter from E. A. Darwin, [after 21 April 1869] and n. 1).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Davies, Gordon Leslie. [1969.] The earth in decay: a history of British geomorphology 1578–1878. London: MacDonald Technical & Scientific.

Lyell, Charles. 1865. Elements of geology, or the ancient changes of the earth and its inhabitants as illustrated by geological monuments. 6th edition, revised. London: John Murray.

Origin 5th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 5th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1869.


Asks for a photograph of CL to be used by a society [in Serbia].

Comments on article by Wallace ["Sir Charles Lyell on geological climates and the Origin", Q. Rev. 126 (1869): 359–94].

Has finished new edition of Origin [5th (1869)]

and is back at work on sexual selection [Descent].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.369)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6725,” accessed on 20 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17