From Charles Lyell 3 October 1859
Octr 3. 1859.
My dear Darwin
I have just finished your volume & right glad I am that I did my best with Hooker to persuade you to publish it without waiting for a time which probably could never have arrived tho’ you lived till the age of 100, when you had prepared all your facts on which you ground so many grand generalizations.2
It is a splendid case of close reasoning & long sustained argument throughout so many pages, the condensation immense, too great perhaps for the uninitiated but an effective & important preliminary statement which will admit even before your detailed proofs appear of some occasional useful exemplifications such as your pigeons & cirripedes of which you make such excellent use.3
I mean that when as I fully expect a new edition is soon called for you may here & there insert an actual case to relieve the vast number of abstract propositions— So far as I am concerned I am so well prepared to take your statements of facts for granted that I do not think the “pièces justificatives” when published will make much difference, & I have long seen most clearly that if any concession is made, all that you claim in your concluding pages will follow—4 It is this which has made me so long hesitate always feeling that the case of Man & his Races & of other animals & that of plants is one & the same & that if a ‘vera causa’ be admitted for one instead of a purely unknown & imaginary one such as the word “Creation” all the consequences must follow—5
I fear I have not time today as I am just leaving this place to indulge in a variety of comments & to say how much I was delighted with Oceanic islands— Rudimentary organs—Embryology—the genealogical key to the Natural System, Geographl Distribution & if I went on I should be copying the heads of all your Chapters. But I will say a word of the Recapitulation in case some slight alteration or at least omission of a word or two be still possible in that.—
In the first place at p. 480 it cannot surely be said “that the most eminent naturalists have rejected the view of the mutability of species— You do not mean to ignore G. St Hilaire & Lamarck— As to the latter you may say that in regard to animals you substitute natural selection for volition to a certain considerable extent, but in his theory of the changes of plants he cd not introduce volition—he may no doubt have laid an undue comparative stress on changes in physical conditions & too little on those of contending organisms— He at least was for the universal mutability of species & for a genealogical link between the past & the present.—
The men of his school also appealed to domesticated varieties—(do you mean living naturalists?)6
The first page of this most important summary gives the adversary an advantage by putting forth so abruptly & crudely such a startling objection as the formation of “the eye” not by means analogous to human reason or rather to some power immeasurably superior to human reason but to superinduced variations like those of which a cattle breeder avails himself. Pages would be required thus to state an objection & remove it— It would be better as you wish to persuade to say nothing? Leave out several sentences & in a future edition bring it out more fully—7 Between the throwing down of such a stumbling block in the way of the reader & the passage to the working ants in p 460 there are pages required—& these ants are a bathos to him before he has recovered from the shock of being called upon to believe the eye to have been brought to perfection from a state of blindness or pur-blindness by such variations as we witness— I think a little omission would greatly lessen the objectionableness of these sentences if you have not time to recast & amplify.
p. 467. l. 8 from bottom I was baulked by the extreme brevity of this passage “calculation” “reasons” “naturalisation” this is not enough to recall even the headings to an ordinary reader a few words more wd be useful.8
478 l. 10 “some identical species common to both the areas still exist” or some such modification of the sentence would be better—9
p. 485 When we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship—as something wholly beyond his comprehension, when we begin to regard every production of Nature as one which has had a history, when we contemplate &c10
486 l. 7 I would leave out “and” the first word—it baulked me the first time— 11
But these are small matters, mere spots on the sun— Your comparison of the letters retained in words, where no longer wanted for the sound, to rudimentary organs is excellent as both are truly genealogical—12
The want of peculiar birds in Madeira is a greater difficulty than seemed to me allowed for— I could cite passages where you show that variations are superinduced from the new circumstances of new colonists which wd require some Madeira birds like those of the Galapagos to be peculiar. There has been ample time in the case of Madeira & Porto Santo—13
You must make out storms which blew back American birds to Africa or to the Canaries an mutual interchange of colonists with main land or island with island to explain the anomaly—
I never received several pages from p. 400? about to p. 409— I have not the sheets at hand & cannot refer to them before post time as I am on the move. Please send them to Post office Scarborough where I shall be for a day or two this week— Old proofs will do very well for these missing pages—
You inclose your sheets in old M.S. so that Post office very properly charge them as letters 2d extra— I wish all their fines were on M.S. worth as much. I paid s 4.d 6 for such trash the other day from Paris from a man who can prove 300 deluges in valley of Seine.
With my hearty congratulations to you on your grand work | believe me | ever very affectionately yrs | Cha Lyell
My wife sends her kind remembrances to you all & means to write soon—
Praises the Origin: a "splendid case of close reasoning".
Objects to CD’s having ignored Lamarck and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.
Thinks CD should omit mentioning problem of explaining the eye at the beginning of chapter 14. Suggests rewording several passages.
Thinks want of peculiar birds in Madeira a difficulty, considering presence of them in Galapagos.
Has always felt that the case of man and his races is one and the same with animals and plants.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2501,” accessed on 28 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-2501