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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   6 June [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

June 6

My dear Lyell

We think Etty is rather better today; her pulse has fallen & she seems stronger. We had Sir H. Holland down on Sunday, & though he thought there was no immediate cause for anxiety, he discouraged us in hopes of speedy recovery.1

Did you read Haughton in Dublin Mag. of Nat. Hist.2 He is more coarsely contemptuous than even Mr Dunns in N. British3 & overdoes everyone else in misrepresentation. I never knew anything so unfair as his ignoring in his remarks on Bee’s cells the almost exactly intermediate comb of Melipona; & so in many other cases. It consoles me that he sneers at Malthus, for that clearly shows, mathematician though he may be, he cannot understand common reasoning.4 By the way what a discouraging example Malthus is to show during what long years the plainest case may be misrepresented & misunderstood.

I have read the “Future”:5 how curious it is that several of my reviewers shd advance such wild arguments as that vars. of dogs & cats do not mingle; & shd. bring up the old exploded doctrine of definite analogies or Quinarianism.— 6 I am beginning to despair of ever making the majority understand my notions. Even Hopkins does not thoroughly. (by the way I have been so much pleased by the way he personally alludes to me)7   I must be a very bad explainer. I hope to Heaven that you will succeed better. Several Reviews, & several letters have shown me too clearly how little I am understood. I suppose “natural selection” was bad term; but to change it now, I think, would make confusion worse confounded. Nor can I think of better; “Natural preservation” would not imply a preservation of particular varieties & would seem a truism; & would not bring man’s & nature’s selection under one point of view. I can only hope by reiterated explanations finally to make matter clearer.

If my M.S. spreads out, I think I shall publish one volume exclusively on “Variation of animals & plants under domestication”. I want to show that I have not been quite so rash as many suppose.—

Though weary of Reviews, I shd. like to see Lowell sometime,8 & likewise (if you can spare) Binney on Coal & Schaafhausen or some such name on natural selection.—9 I suppose Lowell’s difficulty about instinct is same as Bowens;10 but it seems to me wholly to rest on assumption that instincts cannot graduate as finely as structure. I have stated in my volume, that it is hardly possible to know which i.e. whether instinct or structure changes first by insensible steps.— Probably sometimes instinct, sometimes structure.— When a British insect feeds on exotic plant, instinct has changed. by very small step & then structure might change so as to fully profit by new food. Or structure might change first, as the direction of tusks in one var. of Indian Elephant, which leads it to attack the tiger in different manner from other kinds of Elephants.—

Thanks for your letter of 2d, chiefly about Murray11 (N.B Harvey of Dublin gives me in letter the argument of tall men marrying short women, as one of great weight!)12

I attributed in Origin blindness of cave animals not, (as you say) to “selection of million of chance varieties” but exclusively to disuse. But about insects I was hasty, I knew (but overlooked bearing of fact) that one genus Adelops is found under moss out of caves & yet blind. It is possible that the genus Anophthalmus (a Carabidous Beetle) was similarly an extra-cavernal blind insect. It seems not unlikely that a blind insect would be less inconvenienced in dark cave than other insects & would become tenant. There were several passages in Murray’s article which I could not clearly understand.

I do not quite understand what you mean by saying “that the more they prove that you underrate physical conditions, the better for you, as geology comes into your aid.”—

Godron puts well the little effect of climate,13 which always becomes stronger & stronger conviction on my mind. I do not say confidently food.—   I see in Murray & many others, one incessant fallacy when alluding to slight differences of physical conditions as being very important; namely oblivion of fact that all species, except very local ones, range over a considerable area, & though exposed to what they would call considerable diversities, yet keep constant. I have just alluded to this in Origin in comparing productions of Old & New Worlds.14

Farewell. Shall you be at Oxford?15 If Etty gets quite well; perhaps I shall go there.—   Yours affect | C. Darwin


[Haughton] 1860b.
Origin was criticised in articles in both the April and May 1860 issues of The Future: a Monthly Journal of Research and Criticism in the Physical and Historical Sciences. Copies of these reviews are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The author of the May 1860 review in The Future, p. 29, stated ‘that order and system are the rule, and disorder and indeterminateness the comparatively rare exceptions, even within the limits of species’, and he advanced the general absence of mongrelism among dogs and cats as a case in point. On his copy of the article (Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL), CD attributed the article to ‘a Mr Berke’, referring to the journal’s editor Luke Burke. CD also wrote: ‘His main argument against me is Swainson’s analogies.’ CD refers to William Swainson’s idealistic system of classification. For CD’s opinion of Swainson’s system, see Correspondence vol. 3, letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 March [1844].
William Hopkins had expressed his ‘full participation in the high respect in which the author is universally held, both as a man and a naturalist’ (Hopkins 1860, 61: 752).
Francis Bowen had reviewed Origin in the North American Review 49 (1860): 474–506. There is an annotated copy of this review ([Bowen] 1860a) in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. In another article on CD’s theory written in 1860 but published the following year, Bowen acknowledged that he had written the review (Bowen 1860b, p. 115 n.). There is also an annotated copy of Bowen 1860b in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Both Lowell and Bowen attacked CD for his ‘denials’ of design. See also letter to Asa Gray, 18 May [1860].
Lyell’s letter discussing Andrew Murray’s criticisms of Origin has not been located. CD had sent Lyell a copy of Murray 1860a (see letter to Charles Lyell, 1 [June 1860]).
William Henry Harvey’s letter has not been found. Murray had also raised this point in his criticism of natural selection (Murray 1860a, p. 277). See letter to Andrew Murray, 28 April [1860].
Origin, pp. 346–7.
The 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was to be held in Oxford. See letter to Charles Lyell, 25 [June 1860].


Bowen, Francis. 1860b. Remarks on the latest form of the development theory. [Read 27 March, 10 April, and 1 May 1860.] Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences n.s. 8 (pt 1) (1861): 97–122.

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

[Duns, John.] 1860. On the Origin of species. North British Review 32: 455–86.

Godron, Dominique Alexandre. 1859. De l’espèce et des races dans les êtres organisés et spécialement de l’unité de l’espèce humaine. 2 vols. Paris: J. B. Baillière.

Hopkins, William. 1860. Physical theories of the phenomena of life. Fraser’s Magazine 61: 739–52; 62: 74–90.

[Lowell, John Amory]. 1860. Darwin’s Origin of species. Christian Examiner and Theological Review 5th ser. 6: 449-64.

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.

Schaaffhausen, Hermann. 1853. Über beständigkeit und Umwandlung der Arten. Verhandlungen des Naturhistorischen Vereines der preussischen Rheinlande und Westphalens 10: 420–51.


Mentions Etty’s illness.

A "coarsely contemptuous" review of Origin by Samuel Haughton ["On the form of the cells made by various wasps and by the honey bee; with an appendix on the origin of species", Proc. Nat. Hist. Soc. Dublin 3 (1860): 128–40].

Comments on reception of Malthus’ ideas.

Says William Hopkins does not understand him.

Discusses problem of term "natural selection".

J. A. Lowell’s review of Origin [Christian Examiner (1860): 449–64].

Relationship between instinct and structure.

Discusses blindness of cave animals.

The fallacy of Andrew Murray and others; the slight importance of climate.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.215)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2822,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

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