skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   22 [December 1859]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Lyell

Thanks about “Bears”—a word of ill omen to me.—2

I am too unwell to leave home so shall not see you.—3

I am very glad of your remarks on Hooker.4 I have not yet got Essay—the parts which I read in sheets seemed to me grand, especially the generalisations about Australian Flora itself. How superior to Robert Brown’s celebrated essay!5

I have not seen Naudin’s paper & shall not be able till I hunt the Libraries; I am very curious to see it.6 Decaisne seems to think he gives my whole theory.—7 I do not know when I shall have time & strength to grapple with Hooker.—

What a marvellous geological Noah’s ark that fossil tree in N. America was!—8

Farewell | with thanks | Ever yours | C. Darwin

P.S | I have heard from Sir W. Jardine: his criticisms are quite unimportant—some of the Galapagos so-called species ought to be called varieties, which I fully expected— Some of the sub-genera thought to be wholly endemic have been found on Continent (not that he gives his authority) but I do not make out that the species are the same.— His letter brief & vague, but says he will write again.—9


Dated by CD’s reference to the letter from William Jardine, 20 December 1859.
See letters to Charles Lyell, 25 [November 1859] and [10 December 1859], and to Richard Owen, 10 December [1859].
CD had intended to visit London from 22 to 24 December (letter to T. H. Huxley, 16 December [1859]).
CD refers to Hooker 1859. Lyell had written to Joseph Dalton Hooker on 19 December 1859 with praise for the work: ‘I have just finished the reading of your splendid Essay on the ’Origin of Species‘ as illustrated by your wide botanical experience, and think it goes very far to raise the variety-making hypothesis to the rank of a theory, as accounting for the manner in which new species enter the world.’ (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 327).
Naudin 1852. Hooker had also mentioned this work to CD (see preceding letter). CD entered the paper twice in his list of books to be read and, at some stage, noted that he had read it (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, *128: 167 and 155). CD was already familiar with Charles Victor Naudin’s work (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 November [1855]). Lyell probably drew CD’s attention to the work after reading Hooker’s comments on it in Hooker 1859, p. xi n. Hooker touched on the problem of the alleged fertility of hybrids and remarked: ‘A very able and careful experimenter, M. Naudin, performed a series of experiments at the Jardin des Plantes at Paris, in order to discover the duration of the progeny of fertile hybrids. He concludes that the fertile posterity of hybrids disappears, to give place to the pure typical form of one or other parent.’ The point about the acquisition of sterility was one that interested Lyell in relation to CD’s theory (see letters from Charles Lyell, 28 October 1859 and 21 November 1859). See also Wilson ed. 1970, p. 340.
It is not clear whether CD had received the information about Joseph Decaisne from Lyell or from Hooker. CD had sent Decaisne a copy of Origin through Hooker (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 15 October [1859] and 23 [December 1859]). CD certainly thought that Naudin had, to some extent, anticipated him: he cited Naudin 1852 in the ‘Historical sketch’ which he added to the third and all subsequent editions of Origin. See Correspondence vol. 8.
Lyell described the tree in his journal in the draft of his letter to Hooker of 19 December: ‘[John William] Dawson of Montreal has just found 4 species of reptile in an erect tree in Nova Scotia, 3 of them of higher grade than any one previously found in the Coal, & above 50 specimens of pupa—no other land shells being known between this & the Eocene!’ (Wilson ed. 1970, p. 342).


Brown, Robert. 1814. General remarks, geographical and systematical, on the botany of Terra Australis. Appendix 3, pp. 533–613, in vol. 2 of Flinders, Matthew, A voyage to Terra Australis. 2 vols., and atlas. London.

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

Naudin, Charles Victor. 1852. Considérations philosophiques sur l’espèce et la variété. Revue Horticole 4th ser. 1: 102–9.

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.


Comments on Hooker’s introductory essay [in Flora Tasmaniae].

Cites C. V. Naudin’s article ["Considérations philosophiques sur l’espèce et la variété", Rev. Hortic. 4th ser. 1 (1852): 102–9].

Mentions letter from William Jardine criticising discussion of the Galapagos in the Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.186)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2593,” accessed on 23 April 2024,

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