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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   12 April [1845]

Down near Bromley Kent

April 12th.

Dear Sir

I am exceedingly vexed to find by your letter just received, that I have unintentionally deceived you. I did not perceive the drift of your questions, with respect to the signing of an agreement, & thought they referred only to a second Edition. I certainly have never signed any agreement of any kind; but the separate sale of my Journal in the first edition was with my verbal consent & approval. Mr Colburn urged me strongly, directly after the date of the first publication, to agree with him for a second edition & I most unwillingly assented on the same terms with the first edition with Capt FitzRoy, of which you have seen a copy. He accordingly sent me a paper to sign, but on reading it over, I found inserted, that I shd share risks: on this I indignantly sent it back by his clerk, with a message, that if not immediately returned in its proper form, I would have nothing more to do with it: it was never returned & I am assuredly free both legally & morally. I had heard a short time before of a similar scandalous proceeding by which an author was entrapped; & this was the subject, to which I alluded in my first letter: I inform you of this transaction in strict confidence, though I am ready to assert every word on oath. Further considering that Mr. C. printed 1500 copies of my Journal, & has obtained so high a price as 18s for the sale it appears of 1400, I have just cause to complain that he has never paid me anything; not even repaid me, what I was compelled to pay him for my presentation copies. I have no scruples, on any ground whatever, with respect to a second edition, but in point of honour, whatever it may be law, I presume he has a claim on the sale of the first, as by my ignorance I managed the affair so ill.— I think it would be better if you were to inform him, that you were mistaken in supposing that I meant to say, that I had not consented verbally to the separation of my Journal in the first edition; but you can add, or not as you think fit, that I am so far from thinking that he has any claim on me, that if treated illiberally, I would use every legal means to free myself from him.— If he writes, I must say that the separation was with my consent; but I will not write to him, without showing you my letter, as you have so obligingly interested yourself in this matter.

I assure you in truth, that I am more annoyed at having led you into this mistake, that I can well express: I fear you will repent of having had anything to do with my work. Of course, you will permit me to pay for the legal opinion, if our negotiation fails, at which I shall be most sincerely grieved.

I again apologise for the trouble, I have given you & believe me | dear Sir | Yours faithfully | C. Darwin J. Murray Esqre.



CD clarifies his relationship with Henry Colburn with regard to a 2d ed. of the Journal of researches. "I never signed any agreement of any kind; but the separate sale of my Journal in the first edition was with my verbal consent & approval."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42153 ff.4–5)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 856,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3