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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   10 January [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 10th

My dear Lyell

I will run through your letter.— Parthenogenesis (p. 96) is nothing & I know not why I inserted it in list.1 It is perfectly true that I owe nearly all the corrections to you & several verbal ones to you & others: I am heartily glad you approve of them.2 As yet only two things have annoyed me; those confounded millions of years3 (not that I think it is probably wrong) & my not having by inadvertence mentioned Wallace towards close of Book in summary,—not that anyone has noticed this to me.— I have now put in Wallace’s name at 484 in conspicuous place.—4

I cannot refer you to tables of mortality of children &c &c. I have notes somewhere, but I have not the least idea where to hunt, & my notes would now be old. I shall be truly glad to read carefully any M.S. on man & give my opinion. You used to caution me to be cautious about man, I suspect I shall have to return the caution a hundred-fold! Yours will no doubt be a grand discussion; but it will horrify the world at first more than my whole volume; although by the sentence (p. 489 new Edit) I show that I believe man is in same predicament with other animals.—5 It is in fact impossible to doubt it.— I have thought only vaguely on man. With respect to the Races, one of my best chances of truth has broken down from impossibility of getting facts.—6 I have one good speculative line, but a man must have entire credence in N. Selection before he will even listen to it.—7 Psychologically I have done scarcely anything. Unless indeed expression of countenance can be included, & on that subject I have collected a good many facts & speculated: but I do not suppose I shall ever publish; but it is an uncommonly curious subject.—8 By the way I sent off a lot of questions the day before yesterday to Tierra del Fuego on expression!9 I suspect (for I have never read it) that “Spencer’s Psychology” has a bearing on Psychology, as we should look at it.—10 By all means read Preface in about 20 pages, of Hensleigh Wedgwoods new Dictionary on first origin of Language:11 Erasmus could lend it.12

I agree about Carpenter,—a very good article, but with not much original.13

I am very sorry that Lindley did not write in Gardeners’ Chronicle.—14

Andrew Murray (the Entomologist & dabbler in Botany) has criticised in Address to Botanical Soc. of Edinburgh the notice in Linn. Journal,15 & “has disposed of” the whole theory by an ingenious difficulty, which I was very stupid not to have thought of; for I express surprise at more & analogous cases not being known. The difficulty is that amongst the blind insects of the caves in distant parts of world, there are some of the same genus, & yet the genus is not found out of caves, or living in the free world.16 I have little doubt that like the fish Amblyopsis & like Proteus in Europe, these insects are “wrecks of ancient life” or “living fossils”, saved from competition & extermination.17 But that formerly seeing insects of the same genus roamed over the whole area in which the caves are included.

Farewell | Yours affecty | C. Darwin

Our ancestor was an animal which breathed water, had a swim-bladder, a great swimming tail, an imperfect skull & undoubtedly was an hermaphrodite! Here is a pleasant genealogy for mankind.—18


CD apparently sent Lyell a list of the alterations he had made in the second edition of Origin. For a transcript of the list, which was also sent to Asa Gray, see the enclosure to the letter to Asa Gray, 28 January [1860]. Lyell’s letter in response has not been found. CD added a reference to ‘the curious and not well-understood cases of parthenogenesis’ to the second edition of Origin, p. 96, in his discussion of the intercrossing of individuals. See also Peckham ed. 1959, p. 185.
For the numerous corrections that Lyell suggested for the second edition of Origin, see Correspondence vol. 7.
In the discussion of the great length of time required to wear down geological strata (Origin, pp. 282–7), CD estimated that the process of denudation of the Weald had probably taken three hundred million years. This estimate was challenged by a reviewer of Origin in the Saturday Review, 24 December 1859, pp. 775–6. CD had accepted this criticism as justified (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 3 January [1860], to Charles Lyell, 4 [January 1860], and to Asa Gray, 28 January [1860], n. 22).
Alfred Russel Wallace’s name was added to the concluding passage of the second edition of Origin. The sentence reads: ‘When the views advanced by me in this volume, and by Mr. Wallace in the Linnean Journal, or when analogous views on the origin of species are generally admitted, we can dimly foresee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history.’ (Origin 2d ed., pp. 484–5; Peckham ed. 1959, p. 754).
CD refers to Lyell’s intention to publish an account of the recent work on the antiquity of man. The page reference he gives is to his famous remark: ‘Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.’ CD did not expand this comment in the second edition of Origin (see Peckham ed. 1959, pp. 757–8).
CD may be referring to his inquiries concerning the relation between skin and hair colour (and hence ethnic group) and resistance to disease in humans. His attempts to gather material on this subject had not been very successful. See Correspondence vol. 6, letters from Thomas Hutton, 8 March 1856, and from W. F. Daniell, 8 October – 7 November 1856; and vol. 7, letter to Asa Gray, 18 November [1858].
CD probably alludes to his idea of sexual selection, expanded at length in Descent.
CD had long collected notes on the expression of the emotions. His earliest comments are in his notebooks (Notebooks). See also CD’s observations on the expressions and behaviour of his children (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix III). He published the results of his research in Expression.
Spencer 1855, which Herbert Spencer presented to CD in 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Herbert Spencer, 11 March [1856]). CD’s copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Wedgwood 1859–65. Hensleigh Wedgwood’s account of the origin of language ran counter to contemporary opinion: he believed that words first emerged as an elaborated imitation of natural sounds. CD’s copy of a later edition of the work is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin, CD’s brother.
William Benjamin Carpenter reviewed Origin in the National Review, 10 (1860): 188–214.
CD initially believed that the favourable review in the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 31 December 1859, pp. 1051–2, had been written by John Lindley, the editor. The author, however, was Joseph Dalton Hooker. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 [January 1860].
Andrew Murray’s presidential address of 10 November 1859 was reported in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal n.s. 11 (1860): 141–51. He discussed Darwin and Wallace 1858 and also Origin, whose arguments he had first learned of ‘from a friend who had seen the proof-sheets’ (ibid., p. 148).
Murray believed that he had found a flaw in CD’s theory. He pointed out, as CD states, that eyeless insects of the same genera were found in widely separated caves (sometimes even on different continents) without the genus being represented outside the caves. Murray believed this showed that migration to the interior of caves was out of the question and that particular forms were created for particular conditions (Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal n.s. 11 (1860): 149). See also letters to Andrew Murray, 28 April [1860] and 28 [April 1860].
See Origin, p. 139.
Lyell made annotations relating to the letter on the cover: ‘C. Darwin   Mortality of children— Man originally an hermaphrodite— Blind genus of insect with wide range. Man & Spencer’s Psychology—’.


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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Notebooks: Charles Darwin’s notebooks, 1836–1844. Geology, transmutation of species, metaphysical enquiries. Transcribed and edited by Paul H. Barrett et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the British Museum (Natural History). 1987.

Origin 2d ed.: 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. 1860.

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.

Spencer, Herbert. 1855. The principles of psychology. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.


Comments on corrections [in Origin, 2d ed. (1860)], especially on use of Wallace’s name.

Discusses human evolution with respect to CL’s work. Cites expression as a source of evidence.

Andrew Murray’s criticisms of the Origin involving blind insects in caves [Edinburgh New Philos. J. n.s. 11 (1860): 141–51].

Humorously describes human ancestors.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
JA 11 60
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.191)
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2647,” accessed on 20 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8