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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   21 May [1871]1


May 21.

My dear old Frank

You have £33. s13. d0 in my Bank
Interest (say) to June 30th. 17. 0
Fees 5. 5. 0
£39. 15. 0

I enclose the amount.— I doubted about sending you all your capital for current expences; but I believe you act rightly & so send it. As I have thus yielded to you, you must yield to me & I will pay the whole of your American trip, if it takes place.2 You will have heard from George what Moore says.—3 By working extra hard before & after I hope that you could make up for lost time, but I am a vicious old Father thus to encourage the sins of my sons.—

See if you can help me to understand eyes of Cephalopods:—is the structure really the same as in the vertebrata? & especially are the parts developed from homologous layers of the skin?. Is the histological structure of the parts the same?4

When will Pryors review of Mivart come out?5 I have been interested by the Review of me in Humphrey’s Journal, & pleased with it, though I think he is too hard about my speaking dogmatically on the origin of man, independently of means of transition. I certainly do feel dogmatic or at least positive on the point.— If I pretended to explain everything, the reviewer might justly complain why I do not say whether cleft palate &c &c indicates a former condition of things.—6 I wish to God he could tell me.—

Balfour & Strutt have been here & I am quite charmed with them.7

Dear old Backy | Ever yours | C. Darwin

We have not seen your paper yet!8

P.S. I am thinking of a cheap. Edit. of Origin,9 & if so, I will, as far as short space permits, try & answer Mivart.— This makes me want to hear about eyes of Cephalopods & get reference to good papers.10 Would Humphry know of references.?—11

I have been astonished by reading Mivart carefully how little original there is in the book. I really think hardly a point, which some other reviewer or myself have not touched on.

I was surprised & pleased at what Mr Neville Goodman says on this head.— George says he was your coach.—



The year is established by the reference to a trip to the United States; see letter from G. H. Darwin, [14 May 1871] and n. 1.
On the proposed trip to the United States, see the letter to Francis Darwin, 16 May [1871].
In the sixth edition of Origin, CD added material on the structure of the eye in cephalopods (a class of molluscs that includes cuttlefish, octopus, and squid). See n. 10, below.
CD had asked Francis to show Marlborough Robert Pryor a letter containing various objections to Mivart 1871a (see letter to Francis Darwin, [after 21 January 1871]). No review by Pryor has been been found.
CD refers to the review of Descent, Mivart 1871a, and Wallace 1871b by Neville Goodman (Goodman 1871); it appeared in the May 1871 issue of Journal of Anatomy and Physiology edited by George Murray Humphry. The reviewer remarked that Descent, unlike Origin, was written in a dogmatic and deductive manner, and that CD ‘scarcely touched upon, or dismissed with a few remarks’ those physical phenomena, such as arrested development, that seemed to contradict his theory (Goodman 1871, pp. 363, 365–6). CD briefly mentioned cleft palate as an example of arrested development in Descent 1: 121.
CD had corresponded with John Murray about the possibility of publishing a cheap edition of Origin (see letter to R. F. Cooke, 22 April [1871], letter to John Murray, 23 April [1871], and letter from R. F. Cooke, 26 April 1871).
CD refers to St George Jackson Mivart and to Mivart 1871a. CD’s heavily annotated copy of Mivart 1871a is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 584–8). Mivart had claimed that the eyes of cephalopods were remarkably similar to those of vertebrates. He argued that the coexistence of closely similar structures in widely divergent species posed a great difficulty for CD’s theory (Mivart 1871a, pp. 74–7; see also Marginalia 1: 587). CD argued that the similarity between the eyes of cephalopods and vertebrates was only superficial, citing the work of Victor Hensen (see Origin 6th ed., pp. 151–2, and Hensen 1865).


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

Goodman, Neville. 1871. Review of Descent, St. G. Mivart, Genesis of species and A. R. Wallace, Contributions to the theory of natural selection. Journal of Anatomy and Physiology 5 (1870–1): 363–72.

Hensen, Christian Andreas Victor. 1865. Über das Auge einiger Cephalopoden. Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Zoologie 15: 155–242.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


CD will pay for the American trip if it takes place.

Asks whether FD can help him understand the eyes of cephalopods; is the structure the same as in the Vertebrata and are the parts developed from homologous layers of skin?

Has been pleased by a recent review.

Postscript: Is thinking of a cheap edition of the Origin [1872] in which he hopes to answer St George Mivart’s criticisms.

Asks FD whether he can get some references to good papers on cephalapod eyes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 211: 7–8
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7765,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19