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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Alfred Newton   9 February [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Feb. 9th

Dear Newton

I suppose it wd be universally held extremely wrong for a defendant to write to a Judge to express his satisfaction at a judgment in his favour; & yet I am going thus to act.— I have just read what you have said in the Record about my Pigeon chapters, & it has gratified me beyond measure.2 I have sometimes felt a little disappointed that the labour of so many years seemed to be almost thrown away, for you are the first man, capable of forming a judgment (excepting partly Quatrefages), who seems to have thought anything of this part of my work.3

The amount of labour, correspondence, & care, which the subject cost me, is more than you could well suppose.— I thought the article in the Athenæum, written I have no doubt by Owen, was very unjust;4 but now I feel amply repaid, & I cordially thank you for your sympathy & too warm praise.— What labour you have bestowed on your part of the Record! I ought to be ashamed to speak of my amount of work.—

I thoroughily enjoyed the Sunday which you & the others spent here,5 &

I remain | Dear Newton | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Newton’s review of Variation in Zoological Record (see n. 2, below).
Newton wrote the section on birds in the Zoological Record. In the volume for 1868 he included a brief description of Variation, and summarised CD’s chapters on pigeons. He concluded that these were ‘two of the most remarkable chapters ever written on any zoological subject’, and added, ‘few reflective men will deny the utility of such an accumulation of facts relating to one species, and none will presume to question the ability with which they are presented’ (Zoological Record 5 (1868): 33, 94–6). The Zoological Record for 1868 was published at the end of 1869.
For Armand de Quatrefages’s response to Variation, see Correspondence vol. 16, letter from Armand de Quatrefages, 4 March 1868, and Correspondence vol. 17, letter from Armand de Quatrefages, 29 March 1869. Quatrefages discussed Variation in Quatrefages 1868–9, pp. 209–25, and CD’s pigeon work in ibid., pp. 211–14; he concluded that in this work CD had rendered science a signal service (ibid., p. 114).
The review of Variation in the Athenæum was in fact by John Robertson ([Robertson] 1868), not Richard Owen. The attribution is based on the publisher’s marked copy of the Athenæum (City University Library, London), and on LL 3: 110.
Newton, Robert Swinhoe, Joseph Dalton Hooker, and Albert Günther were all at Down on Sunday 23 January 1870 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

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

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

Quatrefages, Armand de. 1868–9a. Origines des espèces animales et végétales. Revue des deux mondes 2d ser. 78 (1868): 832–60; 79 (1869): 208–40; 80 (1869): 64–95, 397–432, 638–72.

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


Was gratified "beyond measure" by AN’s comments on his pigeon chapter [in Variation] in the [Zoological] Record [5 (1868): 94–6]. AN is the first man capable of forming a judgment who seems to have thought anything of this part.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Newton
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 185: 90
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7100,” accessed on 16 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18