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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Baden Powell   18 January [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

Jan 18th

My dear Sir

Thinking over my letter addressed to Athenæum Club to you this morning,1 as far as I can remember it, it has just occurred to me that you might misunderstand one passage; & though I do not suppose that you would care much for my opinion, I shd be very sorry that anyone should suppose that I ranked your Essay & the Vestiges in the same class. I coupled them merely in relation to both having produced a good effect on the public mind;—the Vestiges probably on a greater number but on a very inferior class.—2

The more I think of the whole subject the more difficult I feel it would be to give a fair account of the several authors who have maintained on various grounds the modification of species.— I beg pardon for troubling you with this second note & remain

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin

Haldeman is name of American Author forgotten this morning.3

I have just bethought me of a Preface which I wrote to my larger work, before I broke down & was persuaded to write the now published Abstract.4 In this Preface I find following passage, which on my honour I had as completely forgotten as if I had never written it. “The ”Philosophy of Creation“ has lately been treated in an admirable manner by the Revd. Baden Powell in his Essay &c &c 1855. Nothing can be more striking than the manner in which he shows that the introduction of new species is ”a regular not a casual phenomenon“,5 or as Sir John Herschel expresses it ”a natural in contradistinction to a miraculous process“.”6


For a survey of the responses to [Chambers] 1844, see Secord 1989.
Charles Lyell reminded CD about Samuel Steman Haldeman’s paper (Haldeman 1843–4) in June 1859 (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Charles Lyell, 21 June [1859]). CD included Haldeman among those who had previously discussed the species question in the ‘historical sketch’ prepared as a preface for the American edition of Origin. See Appendix IV.
CD refers to the manuscript on species that he wrote between 1856 and 1858 (Natural selection), from which Origin was largely compiled. The preface has not been preserved.
The quotation is taken from Powell 1855, p. 359.
John Frederick William Herschel’s remark was printed in Babbage 1837, p. 204. CD included this statement in his historical sketch (see Correspondence vol.8, Appendix IV).


Babbage, Charles. 1837. The ninth Bridgewater treatise. A fragment. London.

[Chambers, Robert.] 1844. Vestiges of the natural history of creation. London: John Churchill.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Haldeman, Samuel Steman. 1843–4. Enumeration of the recent freshwater Mollusca which are common to North America and Europe; with observations on species and their distribution. Boston Journal of Natural History 4: 468–84.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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.

Powell, Baden. 1855. Essays on the spirit of the inductive philosophy, the unity of worlds, and the philosophy of creation. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longman.

Secord, James A. 1989. Behind the veil: Robert Chambers and Vestiges. In History, humanity and evolution: essays for John C. Greene, edited by James R. Moore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Vols. 8,10]


To avoid possible misundertanding of his letter [2654] of that morning, CD wishes to make clear that he did not wish to imply that BP’s essay and the Vestiges of creation were in the same class. The more he thinks of it the more difficult he feels it would be to give a fair account of the authors who have maintained the modification of species. CD finds that he referred to BP’s views in the preface to his larger work [Natural selection], which was replaced by the Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Baden Powell
Sent from
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (Quentin Keynes collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2655,” accessed on 18 June 2021,

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