To Richard Owen 13 December 1
Down Bromley Kent
My notes for latter chapters are a chaos, but I bethought me to look in large 8vo Edit. (1833) of Lyells Principles & I find in vol. 3. p. 144. the desired reference to Mr Clifts paper, viz Ed. New. Phil Journal no XX p. 394 & apparently(?) Proc. Geolog. Soc. 1831. p. 321.2 I find with surprise that Lyell remarks “These facts are full of interest, for they prove that the peculiar type of organisation which now characterizes the Marsupial tribes, has prevailed from a remote period—in Australia” &c. &c.—
You made a remark in our conversation something to the effect that my book could not probably be true as it attempted to explain so much.— I can only answer that this might be objected to any view embracing two or three classes of facts.— Yet I assure you that its truth has often & often weighed heavily on me; & I have thought that perhaps my book might be a case like Macleay’s Quinarian system.3 So strongly did I feel this, that I resolved to give it all up, as far as I could, if I did not convince at least 2 or 3 competent judges.—
You smiled at me for sticking myself up as a martyr; but I assure you, if you had heard the unmerciful & I think unjust things said of my Book & to me in a letter by an old & very distinguished friend, you would not wonder at me being sensitive, perhaps ridiculously sensitive.—4 Forgive these remarks: I shd be a dolt not to value your scientific opinion very highly. If my views are in the main correct, whatever value they may possess in pushing on science will now depend very little on me, but on the verdict pronounced by men eminent in science.
Believe me | Yours very truly | C. Darwin
Responds to Owen’s remarks that his book [Origin] is not likely to be true because it attempts to explain so much. CD describes how, for fear this might be so, he resolved to give up the work if he could not convince two or three competent judges. He is sensitive because of unjust things said by a distinguished friend [A. Sedgwick]. Value of his views now depends on men eminent in science.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2580,” accessed on 12 February 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-2580