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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   15 and 16 [February 1860]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Lyell

It is very goodnatured in you to write & tell me so many things which are very interesting to me. Bravard’s discoveries seem to me magnificent, & especially interesting is the fact of Palæotherium Paranense, taken with (I think) the Nebraska Palæotherium.1 Bravard has sent me two Spanish pamphlets (which I find to my surprise I can hardly translate) in which he has strange geological doctrine, of whole enormous Pampean deposit being a subaerial deposit.—2 He disputes the coembedment of the Bahia Blanca fossils with recent shells; but I am by no means convinced. It seems to me impossible that a whole skeleton, (even to knee-cap) could be washed out of one formation & embedded in another & that other formation a turbulent one with largish pebbles & cross layers.—

I am perfectly convinced (having read this morning) that the Review in Annals is by Wollaston:3 no one else in the world would have used so many parentheses. I have written to him & told him that the “pestilent” fellow thanks him for his kind manner of speaking about him.4 I have also told him that he wd. be pleased to hear that the B. of Oxford says it is the most unphilosophical work he has ever read.—5 The review seems to me clever & only misinterprets me in a few places. Like all hostile men he passes over the explanation given of Classification, Morphology, Embryology & Rudimentary organs &c.— —

I read Wallace’s paper in M.S & thought it admirably good: he does not know that he has been anticipated about depth of intervening sea determining distribution.6 The expression “coincidence” in time & space between new & old species is unfortunate, as he believes, as we do, that new species are very slowly formed.—7 The most curious point in Paper seems to me that about the African character of the Celebes productions;8 but I shd. require further confirmation: I believe the aberrant Anoa, or so-called Antelope is really a small Buffalo.—

That is a very very interesting fact of the Loess Man belonging to peculiar of man;9 do get that well worked out.— 10 Remember what you told me of fossil monkey; very man-like in middle Tertiaries. I will send (when I get from Hooker) Asa Gray’s capital review.—11 Henslow is staying here:12 I have had some talk with him: he is in much same state as Bunbury13 & will go a very little way with us, but brings up no real argument against going further. He, also, shudders at the Eye!14 It is really curious (& perhaps is an argument in our favour) how differently different opposers view the subject.— Henslow used to rest his opposition on imperfection of Geolog: Record, but he now thinks nothing of this, & says I have got well out of it; I wish15 I could quite agree with him. Baden Powell says he never read anything so conclusive as my statement about the Eye!!16 A stranger writes to me about “sexual selection” & regrets that I boggle about such a trifle as the brush of Hair on Male Turkey. And so on.—

As L. Jenyns has a really philosophical mind, & as you say you like to see everything, I send an old letter of his.17 In a later letter to Henslow which I have seen, he is more candid than any opposer I have heard of; for he says though he cannot go as far as I do, yet he can give no good reason why he should not.— 18 It is funny how each man draws his own imaginary line at which to halt.— It reminds me so vividly what I was told about you, when I first commenced geology, to believe a little but on no account to believe all.—19

Ever yours affect | C. Darwin

I hope you will succeed in finding out what the great Celts were used for, it bears on state of civilisation of the old natives.—20

Henslow means this spring to visit the Celt-Beds in France21

Many thanks for Bunbury letter received this morning & for your note.—22 I doubt whether I use term Natural Selection more as a Person, than writers use Attraction of Gravity as governing the movement of Planets &c. but I suppose I could have avoided the ambiguity.

C. D.



Bravard 1857 and 1858. Both works are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL; they were signed and presented by the author. In the papers, Pierre Joseph Auguste Bravard criticised CD’s interpretation of the formation of the estuarial deposits near Bahia Blanca, Argentina, that contained the remains of extinct mammals and recent shells (South America, p. 101).
Thomas Vernon Wollaston’s unsigned review of Origin appeared in Annals and Magazine of Natural History 5 (1860): 132–43. See letter from Charles Lyell, [13–14 February 1860].
Wollaston’s review referred to CD’s theory as a ‘pestilent abstraction like dust cast into our eyes to obscure the workings of an Intelligent First Cause of all’ ([Wollaston] 1860, p. 138).
Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, had made this remark to Lyell. See letter from Charles Lyell, [13–14 February 1860].
Wallace 1860 (see letter from Charles Lyell, [13–14 February 1860]). CD refers to George Windsor Earl’s work on the depth of the straits in the Malay Archipelago, to which CD had drawn Alfred Russel Wallace’s attention when he first read Wallace 1860 in manuscript (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to A. R. Wallace, 9 August 1859). Earl’s findings had been published in Earl 1853. Wallace discussed the relationship between animal distribution patterns and the depth and extent of the stretches of ocean that separated geographical regions in Wallace 1860, pp. 179–82.
The term ‘coincidence’ appears to have been removed from the published version of Wallace 1860.
Wallace described the fauna of Celebes as being composed of species almost entirely confined to the island. They ‘find their allies nowhere nearer than in tropical Africa’ (Wallace 1860, pp. 176–8).
CD omitted a word when he began a new page of the letter.
Lyell was at work on a study of early human remains. Late in 1859, he had visited the Loess formations in Belgium and the valley of the Rhine, where fossil human bones had been found together with those of extinct animals. Lyell discussed these findings in his work on the antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863).
CD received proof-sheets of Asa Gray’s review of Origin ([Gray] 1860a) on or around 4 February. After reading the review, CD sent it on to Joseph Dalton Hooker. See letter to Asa Gray, 18 February [1860].
John Stevens Henslow visited Down from 14 to 16 February 1860 (Emma Darwin’s diary).
For Charles James Fox Bunbury’s reaction to Origin and CD’s rejoinder, see the letter from C. J. F. Bunbury, 30 January 1860, and the letter to C. J. F. Bunbury, 9 February [1860].
CD had used this expression in his letter to Asa Gray, [8 or 9 February 1860], in response to Gray’s remark that the explanation of the formation of ‘organs,—the making of eyes, &c’ seemed the weakest point in his book (see letter from Asa Gray, 23 January 1860). CD had sent Gray’s letter to Lyell (see letter to Charles Lyell, 12 [February 1860]).
The manuscript from this point up to the signature is now held separately from the rest of the letter in the collection of Lady Lyell, Kinnordy, Scotland.
Origin, p. 186. Baden Powell’s letter to CD has not been found, but see the two letters to Baden Powell, 18 January [1860].
Letter from Leonard Jenyns, 4 January 1860. Lyell copied this letter into his scientific journal (Wilson ed. 1970, pp. 349–51).
The letter from Jenyns to Henslow has not been located, but CD referred to it in his letter to J. S. Henslow, 3 February [1860].
This probably alludes to the time, just before the Beagle sailed, when Henslow advised CD to read Lyell’s Principles (C. Lyell 1830–3), ‘but on no account to accept the views therein advocated.’ (Autobiography, p. 101).
This and the following paragraph were written in pencil on a separate sheet of paper and enclosed with the letter. ‘Celts’ are large, shaped flints. Lyell was investigating the possible origin of the flints as part of his study of the antiquity of man (see Correspondence vol. 7, letters to Charles Lyell, 2 September [1859] and 20 September [1859]).
Henslow was not convinced that the celts were of the same age as the fossil remains with which they were found; he reported his doubts in a series of letters printed in the Athenæum in 1859 and 1860. In the autumn of 1860 he visited the gravel pits in Abbeville and Amiens, where various shaped flints had been found, and returned ‘impressed with the conviction, that the facts I have witnessed do not of necessity support the hypothesis of a pre-historic antiquity for these works of man.’ (Athenæum, 20 October 1860, p. 516).
This paragraph was also written in pencil on a second slip of paper and enclosed with the letter. CD refers to the letter from C. J. F. Bunbury, 30 January 1860, which he had sent to Lyell (letter to Charles Lyell, 12 [February 1860]). The note from Lyell has not been found.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Bravard, Auguste. 1857. Observaciones geológicas sobre diferentes terrenos de transporte, en la Hoya del Plata. Buenos Aires.

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

Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.

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.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.

Wallace, Alexander. 1860. Remarks on the occurrence of rarer British Sphingidae. [Read 4 June 1860.] Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 5 (1858–61), Proceedings, pp. 119–20.

[Wollaston, Thomas Vernon]. 1860a. Review of Origin of species. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 5: 132–43. Reprinted in Hull 1973, pp. 127–40. [Vols. 6,7,8]


Auguste Bravard’s discoveries magnificent.

Bravard has sent pamphlets [Observaciones geológicas (1857) and Monografia de los terrenos marinos terciarios (1858)] with strange doctrine that Pampean deposit is subaerial.

Review of Origin by Wollaston [Ann. & Mag. Nat. Hist. 3d ser. 5 (1860): 132–43] clever and misinterprets CD only in a few places.

Wallace’s MS ["Zoological geography of the Malay Archipelago", J. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Zool.) 4 (1860): 172–84] admirably good.

Henslow "will go very little way with us". "He, also, shudders at the eye!"

Baden Powell says CD’s statement about eye is conclusive.

Leonard Jenyns cannot go as far as CD, yet cannot give good reason.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.198); Kinnordy MS (private collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2700,” accessed on 8 December 2021,

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