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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   30 September [1859]

Down Bromley Kent

Sept. 30th

My dear Lyell

I sent off this morning the last sheets, but without index which is not yet in type.— I look at you as my Lord High Chancellor in Natural Science, & therefore I request you, after you have finished, just to re run over the heads in the Recapitulation-part of last Chapter. I shall be deeply anxious to hear what you decide (if you are able to decide) on the balance of the pros & contras given in my volume & of such other pros & contras as may occur to you.—

I hope that you will think that I have given difficulties fairly. I feel an entire conviction, that if you are now staggered to any moderate extent, that you will come more & more round, the longer you keep the subject at all before your mind. I remember well how many long years it was before I could look into the face of some of the difficulties & not feel quite abashed. I fairly struck my colours before the case of neuter-insects.—1

I suppose that I am a very slow thinker, for you would be surprised at the number of years it took me to see clearly what some of the problems were, which had to be solved,—such as the necessity of the principle of divergence of character—the extinction of intermediate varieties on a continuous area with graduated conditions,—the double problem of sterile first crosses & sterile hybrids, &c &c.—

Looking back, I think it was more difficult to see what the problems were than to solve them, as far as I have succeeded in doing; & this seems to me rather curious.2 Well, good or bad, my work thank God is over & hard work, I can assure you I have had, & much work, which has never borne fruit.— You see by the way that I am scribbling that I have an idle & rainy afternoon. I was not able to start for Ilkley yesterday, as I was too unwell; but I hope to get there on Tuesday or Wednesday.—3 Do, I beg you, when you have finished my Book & thought a little over it, let me hear from you.— Never mind & pitch into me, if you think it requisite.

Some future day in London, possibly you may give me a few criticisms in detail,—that is if you have scribbled any remarks on margin.—, for the chance of a second edition.—

Murray has printed 1250 copies, which seems to me rather too large an edition, but I hope he will not lose.—4

I make as much fuss about my book as if it were my first— forgive me & believe me | My dear Lyell | Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin


For CD’s discussion of how natural selection could explain the existence of neuter insects, which cannot propagate their kind, see Origin, pp. 235–42.
Lyell made a note on the cover of the letter about this point: ‘C. Darwin. finding out what the problems were to be solved more difficult than solution Sept. 1859’.
CD set off for Ilkley, Yorkshire, on 2 October 1859 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
The orders for Origin at John Murray’s autumn sale exceeded the first printing by more than 250 copies (Freeman 1977, p. 77). Murray asked CD to start revising at once for a second edition (see letter to John Murray, 24 November [1859]). Lyell’s books were also published by Murray.


Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Is sending off last proof-sheets of Origin.

Asks CL’s opinion of final chapter. Mentions difficulties of his argument.

Is too unwell to start for Ilkley.

Murray’s printing of 1250 copies seems too large to CD.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.171)
Physical description
ALS 7pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2496,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

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