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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Lyell   [after 2 August 1845]

which I have devoted my life, & usually expect when I depart from the rule to have some grand flaws detected in my reasoning or facts, which may be pardoned—if the subjects do not pretend to form the staple commodity of the cargo.

I agree with you that interspaces would have been useful where the subjects are so heterogeneous.

A little more Nat: History might have easily been inserted & would not perhaps violate my rule.

I remember when some zoophytes, Sertularia, Retepora Sponges & many others arrived at the British Museum from Tasmania, J. E. Gray agreeing with me, how like they looked to those on our shore, & he said it would require minute comparison to distinguish the species. I have a collection of insects made at Hobart Town, a great many of which have so English an aspect, that any one would see the collector had crossed the line and got into a temperate climate like our’s. Dr Beck1 once pointed out to me how the Antarctic conchological fauna approached the Arctic. The number of species of Margarita for example was an instance.

There is an extinct species of Gnathodon in the Miocene of Virginia, G. Grayii, & I think I collected there two extinct species of Fulgur, but my Miocene M.S. has gone to the press for the next journal.2

I asked R. Brown what recent Flora had the widest range, & he said part of the Australian, but I will put your query as to that of the arctic region to Charles Bunbury from whom I have just got a long & excellent letter on the climate of the carbonifs Flora, which would do well to read to the G. S. showing that the temperature cannot be inferred to be tropical, but only damp, moist equable & without coal, all the plants save the ferns being too wide from existing analogies to be reasoned from with safety.3 I much desire your soon becoming more intimate with him, as he has so profound a knowledge of species, as well as powers of generalization & he takes to you very much, though he requires a person to go two thirds of the way towards him, which I mention as knowing you, & being aware that your besetting sin is modesty, a rare one in this world, for Sidney Smith truly said it had no ordinary or natural connexion with merit except that of the allitteration. So as we are to lend our House in Hart St. to the Bunburys4 when we are away, I shall hope to hear of your availing yourself of this propinquity. 5

CD annotations

crossed pencil and ink
crossed pencil and ink


Henrick Henricksen Beck.
C. Lyell 1845b.
Possibly the letter referred to in F. J. Bunbury ed. 1891–3, Middle Life 1: 68.
Frances Joanna Bunbury was Mary Elizabeth Lyell’s sister.
CD met Charles James Fox Bunbury at Bedford Place, the home of Leonard Horner, on 23 November 1845. Bunbury records: “He avowed himself to some extent a believer in the transmutation of species, though not, he said, exactly according to the doctrine either of Lamarck or of the ‘Vestiges’. But he admitted that all the leading botanists and zoologists, of this country at least, are on the other side.” (F. J. Bunbury ed. 1891–3, Middle life 1: 77). CD had previously met Bunbury in June 1842 at an inn in Capel Curig when CD was investigating the effects of glaciation in North Wales (F. J. Bunbury ed. 1891–3, Early life 1: 367). They may also have encountered each other as students at Cambridge.


CD’s criticism of his book [Travels in North America (1845)].

Compares invertebrate animals of Tasmania and England.

Mentions views of C. J. F. Bunbury on climate of the Carboniferous period.

Robert Brown says Australian flora has the widest range.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.3: 281
Physical description
2pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 901,” accessed on 16 May 2021,

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