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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   28 March [1859]1

Down Bromley Kent

March 28th

My dear Lyell

If I keep decently well I hope to be able to go to press with my volume early in May. This being so, I want much to beg a little advice from you.— From an expression in Lady Lyell’s note, I fancy that you have spoken to Murray.2 Is it so? and is he willing to publish my Abstract? If you will tell me whether anything & what has passed, I will then write to him: does he know at all subject of Book?

Secondly can you advise me, whether I had better state what terms of publication I shd. prefer or first ask him to propose terms. And what, do you think, would be fair terms for an Edition? share profits or what?

Lastly, will you be so very kind as to look at enclosed title & give me your opinion & any criticisms:3 you must remember that if I have health & it appears worth doing, I have a much larger & full book on same subject nearly ready.4 My abstract will be about 500 pages of size of your first Edition of Elements of Geology.—5

Pray forgive me troubling you with above queries; & you shall have no more trouble on subject.

I hope the world goes well with you, & that you are getting on with your various works.6

I am working very hard for me, & long to finish & be free & try to recover some health.

My dear Lyell | Ever yours | C. Darwin

Very sincere thanks to you for standing my Proxy for Wollaston Medal.7

P.S. | Would you advise me to tell Murray that my Book is not more un-orthodox, than the subject makes inevitable. That I do not discuss origin of man.— That I do not bring in any discussions about Genesis &c, & only give facts, & such conclusions from them, as seem to me fair.—

Or had I better say nothing to Murray, & assume that he cannot object to this much unorthodoxy, which in fact is not more than any Geological Treatise, which runs slap counter to Genesis.—


An abstract of an Essay on the Origin of Species and Varieties Through Natural Selection by Charles Darwin M. A Fellow of the Royal, Geological & Linn. Socy. ———— London &c &c &c &c 1859 ————


The year is given by the reference to publishing CD’s work on species.
John Murray had taken over his father’s prestigious publishing company in 1843. As well as acquiring his father’s connections with eminent literary and political figures, Murray himself was prominent in the literary, scientific, and social circles of London. An amateur geologist, he published many scientific works, including those of Charles Lyell (see Wilson 1972, pp. 341–4), and had published one of CD’s books, the second edition of Journal of researches in 1845.
See the enclosure; a facsimile is reproduced in Correspondence vol. 7, facing page 283.
CD refers to the manuscript of Natural selection.
C. Lyell 1838. CD owned copies of the third (1851) and fifth (1855) editions, now in the Darwin Library–CUL. For CD’s previous estimates of the size of his forthcoming volume, see letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 December [1858].
Lyell was writing up the results of his geological tour in Italy made in the summer and autumn of 1858 (see K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 285–315).


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

Lyell, Charles. 1838. Elements of geology. London: John Murray.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Wilson, Leonard Gilchrist. 1972. Charles Lyell. The years to 1841: the revolution in geology. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.


Has heard that CL has spoken to John Murray about publication [of Origin]. Encloses prospective title-page. Asks whether he ought to tell John Murray about unorthodoxy of the book.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.163)
Physical description
ALS 6pp, encl 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2437,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

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