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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. V. Carus   2 October 1870


Oct. 2, 1870.

My dear Sir,

This most horrid war put me entirely out of my regular work and in fact out of order. The very day when your letter (Aug 18.) reached Leipzig I was on the outset to France, not being able to spare one minute to answer it.1 I took three railway-carriages full of hospital materials with me to distribute amongst the hospitals round Metz and up to Sedan.2 Then I conducted three hundred wounded to Saxony and did not stop here but a few hours to return again to Douzy with new things.3 The impressions I got there were so woeful and melancholy that I really wanted some time to get them over and to force myself to the daily work. Pray don’t be angry, that I left your kind letter unanswered for such a length of time; but in fact I could not write.

When I returned the second time I found a letter of the publisher asking me to begin the translation as soon as possible.4 I perfectly agree with him, that the war will not interfere the least with the success of your new book in a german form. People are anxious to find a safe refuge in science, they begin to get tired of the constant excitements brought about by telegrams and shocking war-tales. The results of your work will become a permanent part of the scientific conscience and not be looked over and forgotten as the infallibility will be. The worst of it could only be that it might sell at a less quick rate. But this is a matter of the publisher’s. And as he insists on bringing the book out as soon as possible (—and he hopes to be able to bring the first volume at the same time with the original—) I cannot but submit to his judgement.5

You would therefore oblige me and the publisher exceedingly if you would be so kind as to send me the corrected sheets as soon as possible in the same way as you kindly sent me the sheets of the “Variation under Domestication.”6

The success of the German armies are indeed wonderful. But after all I may ask if the struggle for superiority between the Romanic and Teutonic race, both taken in the widest sense, could not be fought out in some other form more appropriate to the high standing of their respective culture and civilisation. It is a most dreaful ‘struggle for existence’ and the only philosophical comfort is that whatever happens, must have happened, for without being a necessary consequence of natural conditions it could not happen   But for a sensible mind this “nil admirari” is a very hard thing!7 I hope with all my heart that we will soon have peace.

Scientific work is just like oil smoothing down the rolling waves of political and national excitement. I trust you will kindly help me to steady my thoughts again.

Believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely. | J. Victor Carus


Carus refers to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871, and the letter to J. V. Carus, 18 August 1870.
Metz, a city in north-eastern France, was the headquarters of the Third French Army Corps, and was besieged by the Prussian Second Army from 3 September to 23 October 1870 (Howard 1981, pp. 257–72). The French town of Sedan, in northern France, had been under German control since the battle of Sedan on 2 September 1870 (ibid., pp. 204–23). Carus earned his doctorate in medicine, and had earlier practised as a physician (NDB).
The kingdom of Saxony was an army-corps area during the Franco-Prussian war; see Howard 1981, p. 22. Douzy is a commune in the department of the Ardennes in northern France, near Sedan.
Carus was to translate Descent into German; see the letter to J. V. Carus, 18 August 1870. E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagshandlung, headed by Eduard Koch, published the translation in 1871 (Carus trans. 1871).
The first printing of Descent was published on 24 February 1871, though presentation copies were released in late 1870 (Freeman 1977, pp. 129–30). The first volume of Carus trans. 1871 was published separately in Germany in April 1871 (Correspondence vol. 19, letter from J. V. Carus, 22 April 1871), with the second volume appearing later in the year, probably in June 1871 (ibid., letter from J. V. Carus, 28 May 1871).
For Carus’s translation of Variation (Carus trans. 1868), see Correspondence vols. 15 and 16.
‘Nil admirari’: to be astonished at nothing.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Howard, Michael. 1981. The Franco-Prussian War; the German invasion of France, 1870–1871. London and New York: Routledge.

NDB: Neue deutsche Biographie. Under the auspices of the Historical Commission of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. 27 vols. (A–Wettiner) to date. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. 1953–.

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


The outbreak of war and war work have interfered with JVC’s scientific work.

Publisher does not, however, think the war will hurt success of Descent in Germany, and JVC asks for corrected sheets for his use in translating it.

Wishes struggle between Romanic and Teutonic races could be fought out in a form more appropriate to their cultures and civilisation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Julius Victor Carus
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 76
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7332,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

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