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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Robert Smith   24 February 1873

114 Hughes Buildings | Belfast

Feby 24 73

Mr Darwin

Dear Sir

I am a member of the Belfast Naturalists’ field Club and happen to be the only one who openly avows his belief in your views with regard to life and its developement.

Your writings have had a charm for me, beyond my powers of expression. Your journal was the first of the series, and I have just finished reading the sixth edition of your origin of species.1 I know not which to admire most, the patience, the wonderful perseverence and industry which has enabled you to make so very great a number of experiments and observations: or the rarer and grander quality of Candour, which impels you to state in the fullest manner, all the arguments that could possibly be urged against your own views.

I have promised to read a paper at one of our meetings on this subject, I have been induced to do it with short notice.2 and feel my utter inadequacy to do it any thing like justice. We have had so many papers against your views however, that I have been almost compelled to enter the lists against my will.

I am aware that your views are making rapid way among truly Scientific Naturalists. and I know that many works by distinguished men have lately been written in other European languages. Some time ago, I read a review in the Revue de deux Mondes” of one, I think in German on the Genesis of life.3 I would like to get a short list of these authors with the names of their works; that I might be able to prove the reality of the progress which has already been made. That in a very short time the true philosopy of living forms, will have universal acceptance, I have not the slightest doubt. The Question of the great Cuvier has been answered. Natural History has found its Newton.

I am afraid I have been presumtious in trespassing on your time and attention. a list of three or four able naturalists, and their works would be of use to me, could you help me to it

I am Dear Sir | with profound respect | yours obediently | Robert Smith

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Alp De Candolle | Saporta | Claus—Cohn | Heckel—Gegenbaur | Asa Gray Alex Agassiz | Cope | Sachs | Schultz &c | Riley’ pencil4


Smith’s paper, ‘Darwinism’, was read at the meeting of 12 March 1873, and an abstract was published in the tenth Annual Report of the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club, pp. 73–86.
The review in Revue des deux mondes has not been identified.
CD’s annotations are notes for his reply of 27 February [1873]. He refers to Alphonse de Candolle, Gaston de Saporta, Carl Friedrich Claus, Ferdinand Julius Cohn, Ernst Haeckel, Carl Gegenbaur, Alexander Agassiz, Edward Drinker Cope, Julius Sachs, Max Johann Sigismund Schultze, and Charles Valentine Riley.


Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

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.


Asks for references to works on CD’s views for a paper he is preparing.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Smith
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 199
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8784,” accessed on 13 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21