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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   10 April [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent.

Ap. 10th

My dear Lyell

Thank you much for your note of the 4th. 2 I am very glad to hear that you are at Torquay. I shd. have amused myself earlier by writing to you; but I have had Hooker & Huxley staying here, & they have fully occupied my time;3 as a little of anything is a full dose for me.— I have got “The Future”, but cannot clearly make head or tail of it.—4 There has been a plethora of Reviews, & I am really quite sick of myself.— There is very long Review by Carpenter in Med.-Chirurg. Review:5 very good & well-balanced but not brilliant. He discusses Hookers book at as great length as mine, & makes excellent extracts; but I could not get Hooker to feel the least interest in being praised.

Carpenter speaks of you in thoroughily proper terms.6 There is a brilliant review by Huxley, with capital hits;7 but I do not know that he much advances subject: I think I have convinced him that he has hardly allowed weight enough to the cases of varieties of plants being in some degree sterile.—8

To diverge from Reviews Asa Gray sends me from Wyman (who will write) a good case of all the pigs being black in the Everglades of Virginia;9 on asking about cause, it seems (I have got capital analogous cases) that when the black pigs eat a certain nut, their bones become red & they suffer to certain extent, but that the white pigs lose their hoofs & perish; “& we aid by selection for we kill most of the young white pigs”    This was said by man who could hardly read.—

By the way it is a great blow to me that you cannot admit to potency of natural selection; the more I think of it, the less I doubt its power for great & small changes.—

I have just read the Edinburgh, which without doubt is by Owen.10 It is extremely malignant, clever & I fear will be very damaging. He is atrociously severe on Huxley’s lecture, & very bitter against Hooker. So we three enjoyed it together: not that I really enjoyed it, for it made me uncomfortable for one night; but I have got quite over it today. It requires much study to appreciate all the bitter spite of many of the remarks against me; indeed I did not discover all myself.— It scandalously misrepresents many parts. He misquotes some passages altering words within inverted commas. Makes me say that the dorsal vertebræ of pigeons vary & refers to page where the word dorsal does not appear. Sneers at my saying a certain organ is the branchiæ of Balanidæ; whilst in his own “Invertebrata” published before I published on cirripedes, he calls them organs without doubt branchiæ.—11

It is painful to be hated in the intense degree with which Owen hates me.—

Now for a curious thing about my Book, & then I have done. In last Saturday Gardeners’ Chronicle, a Mr Patrick Matthews publishes long extract from his work on “Naval Timber & Arboriculture” published in 1831, in which he briefly but completely anticipates the theory of Nat. Selection.—12 I have ordered the Book, as some few passages are rather obscure but it, is certainly, I think, a complete but not developed anticipation!13 Erasmus always said that surely this would be shown to be the case someday. Anyhow one may be excused in not having discovered the fact in a work on “Naval Timber”.

I heartily hope that your Torquay work may be successful.14 Give my kindest remembrances to Falconer, & I hope he is pretty well.— Hooker & Huxley (with Mrs. Huxley) were extremely pleasant, but poor dear Hooker is tired to death of my Book; & it is a marvel & prodigy if you are not worse tired, if that be possible.

Farewell my dear Lyell | Yours affect | C. Darwin

How hard it is to please everyone. I told Jukes that I shd. leave out in any next Edition about the Weald, & he demurred greatly & said “he almost fancied he had written himself”, as he bravely told Murchison.—15


Dated by the reference to William Benjamin Carpenter’s review of Origin ([Carpenter] 1860b).
Lyell’s letter has not been found.
Joseph Dalton Hooker, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Henrietta Anne Huxley visited Down over the weekend of 7 and 8 April 1860 (Emma Darwin’s diary).
The Future was a London journal of ‘philosophical research and criticism’. The first number, issued in April 1860, included an anonymous review of Origin. There is a copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
[T. H. Huxley] 1860b.
Thomas Henry Huxley maintained that CD’s theory could not be fully acknowledged until it was shown how sterility could arise between interbreeding hybrids (T. H. Huxley 1860a, p. 198).
Asa Gray’s letter is missing, but see the letter to Asa Gray, 3 April [1860]. Jeffries Wyman wrote to CD later in the year (letter from Jeffries Wyman, [c. 15] September 1860).
[R. Owen] 1860a.
Patrick Matthew’s article was published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 7 April 1860, pp. 312–13. It included long extracts from Matthew 1831. See Appendix V.
CD’s annotated copy of Matthew 1831, inscribed ‘Ap. 13th 1860’, is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Brixham Cave, near Torquay, was being excavated by Hugh Falconer and William Pengelly. Lyell had joined the group to inspect the fossil remains and flint implements they had uncovered. Lyell described the results of the excavations in C. Lyell 1863, pp. 96–103. For an account of Lyell’s work on the antiquity of man, see Bynum 1984.
The letter has not been found, but see the letter to Asa Gray, 3 April [1860]. CD refers to Joseph Beete Jukes and Roderick Impey Murchison.


Matthew, Patrick. 1831. On naval timber and arboriculture; with critical notes on authors who have recently treated the subject of planting. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green. Edinburgh: Adam Black.

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.


W. B. Carpenter’s review of Origin [in Br. & Foreign Med.-Chir. Rev. 25 (1860): 367–404] "very good and well balanced, but not brilliant".

"There is a brilliant review by Huxley" [Westminster Rev. 17 (1860): 541–70].

Asa Gray sends good case of selection producing black pigs in Virginia.

Great blow to CD that CL cannot admit potency of natural selection.

Owen’s review in Edinburgh Review [111 (1860): 487–532] "extremely malignant, clever".

Patrick Matthew has published extract in Gardeners’ Chronicle [7 Apr 1860] from his Naval timber and arboriculture [1831], a complete but not developed anticipation of natural selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.206)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2754,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

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