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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   [25 June 1858]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Lyell

I am very very sorry to trouble you, busy as you are, in so merely personal an affair. But if you will give me your deliberate opinion, you will do me as greata service, as ever man did, for I have entire confidence in your judgment & honour.—

I shd. not have sent off your letter without further reflexion, for I am at present quite upset, but write now to get subject for time out of mind. But I confess it never did occur to me, as it ought, that Wallace could have made any use of your letter.2

There is nothing in Wallace’s sketch which is not written out much fuller in my sketch copied in 1844, & read by Hooker some dozen years ago.3 About a year ago I sent a short sketch of which I have copy of my views (owing to correspondence on several points) to Asa Gray, so that I could most truly say & prove that I take nothing from Wallace.4 I shd. be extremely glad now to publish a sketch of my general views in about a dozen pages or so. But I cannot persuade myself that I can do so honourably. Wallace says nothing about publication, & I enclose his letter.— But as I had not intended to publish any sketch,5 can I do so honourably because Wallace has sent me an outline of his doctrine?— I would far rather burn my whole book than that he or any man shd. think that I had behaved in a paltry spirit. Do you not think his having sent me this sketch ties my hands? I do not in least believe that that he originated his views from anything which I wrote to him.

If I could honourably publish I would state that I was induced now to publish a sketch (& I shd be very glad to be permitted to say to follow your advice long ago given)6 from Wallace having sent me an outline of my general conclusions.— We differ only, that I was led to my views from what artificial selection has done for domestic animals. I could send Wallace a copy of my letter to Asa Gray to show him that I had not stolen his doctrine. But I cannot tell whether to publish now would not be base & paltry: this was my first impression, & I shd. have certainly acted on it, had it not been for your letter.—7

This is a trumpery affair to trouble you with; but you cannot tell how much obliged I shd. be for your advice.—

By the way would you object to send this & your answer to Hooker to be forwarded to me, for then I shall have the opinion of my two best & kindest friends.—8 This letter is miserably written & I write it now, that I may for time banish whole subject. And I am worn out with musing.

I fear we have case of scarlet-fever in House with Baby.—9 Etty is weak but is recovering.—

My good dear friend forgive me.— This is a trumpery letter influenced by trumpery feelings.

Yours most truly | C. Darwin

I will never trouble you or Hooker on this subject again.—


The date is taken from the endorsement, although the words ‘June 1858’ appear not to be in Lyell’s hand. The date, however, is confirmed by CD’s reference to the illness of Charles Waring Darwin (see n. 8, below). The only Friday during the baby’s fever was 25 June. See also the following letter.
See letter to Charles Lyell, 18 [June 1858]. Lyell may have written a letter to Alfred Russel Wallace about Wallace’s manuscript and sent it to CD to be forwarded to Wallace. The letter has not been found. From CD’s remarks, it appears that Lyell had subsequently become anxious that Wallace might in some way utilise his comments. See also letter to A. R. Wallace, 6 April 1859.
Joseph Dalton Hooker read CD’s essay of 1844 (DAR 7; Foundations, pp. 57–255) early in 1847 (see Correspondence vol. 4).
Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Asa Gray, 5 September [1857]. The copy of the manuscript to which CD refers is in DAR 6; it is transcribed in Appendix III.
Although Lyell had urged CD to publish a brief account of his views in 1856, CD had given up the idea of a short sketch in favour of a much longer work (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from Charles Lyell, 1–2 May 1856, and letter to Charles Lyell, 3 May [1856]).
See the two letters to J. D. Hooker, [29 June 1858].
Emma Darwin recorded in her diary that Charles Waring Darwin was taken ill on 23 June 1858. On 27 June, she noted: ‘Baby worse’.


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

Foundations: The foundations of the Origin of Species. Two essays written in 1842 and 1844 by Charles Darwin. Edited by Francis Darwin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1909. [Reprint edition. New York: Kraus Reprint Co. 1969. Also reprinted in De Beer ed. 1958.]


Everything in Wallace’s sketch also appears in CD’s sketch of 1844. A year ago CD sent a short sketch of his views to Asa Gray. Can CD honourably publish his sketch now that Wallace has sent outline of his views? "I would far rather burn my whole book than that he or any man shd. think that I had behaved in a paltry spirit." Does not believe Wallace originated his views from anything CD wrote to him.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.153)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2294,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7