skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   28 [September 1860]

15. Marine Parade | Eastbourne

28 Friday Evening

My dear Lyell

I will now amuse myself by rereading your last letter, & see if I have anything to answer.1

The extinction of Ammonites, even after what you tell me about the great breaks in upper challk does yet seem to me a most singular fact; considering how long & how very largely they were developed during the Secondary periods, & considering how high they are in Molluscous scale.—

I do not think I shd. save you any trouble (I have ordered my own copy) by ordering the Atlantic Monthly for October; any Bookseller could order it or get it (for he has copies sent to him) at Trubners: I got lately from him the copy which you have of the August or 2d. Article.—2

I am very glad to hear about the Germans reading my Book.3 No one will be converted, who has not independently begun to doubt about Species.—   Is not Krohn a good fellow?4 I have long meant to write to him. He has been working at Cirripedes & has detected 2 or 3 gigantic blunders, but in very difficult points. & about which, I thank Heaven, I spoke rather doubtfully, such difficult dissection that even Huxley failed.5 It is chiefly the interpretation which I put on parts that is so wrong; & not the parts which I describe. But they were gigantic blunders; & why I say all this is, because Krohn, instead of crowing at all pointed out my errors with the utmost gentleness & pleasantness.— I have always meant & write to him & thank him.6 I suppose “Dr Krohn, Bonn” would reach him.—7

With respect to Guinea-pig, I have asked A. Gray where Von Baer makes this statement; unless Von B. has some wonderful new evidence what is the wild parent; the fact goes for little; for I agree with those who entirely deny that the Aperea of La Plata & S. Brazil is the wild parent-stock.8 It seems that the Guinea-pig was domesticated when America was discovered.—

Did I ever tell you that the great Von Baer goes a long way with us on Species;9 he has read my Book with much attention.—

I would gladly keep myself the Hybrid Hare-Rabbit; but if I got them from France, what evidence should I have that those which I bought were half & half.?— Bartlett is setting about it in right way, namely by crossing wild Hare & Rabbit.—10 If you see him again just suggest that he shd. try several races of the Rabbit with Hare, if one fail; for there is some mystery about the whole case, as several have tried & could never get the two species to pair.—

I cannot see yet how multiple origin of dog can be properly brought as argument for multiple origin of man. Is not your feeling a remnant of that deeply-impressed one on all our minds, that a species is an entity,—something quite distinct from variety? Is it not that the dog case injures the argument from fertility; so that one main argument that the races of man are varieties & not ⁠⟨⁠species, i.e. because they⁠⟩⁠11 are fertile inter ⁠⟨⁠se is⁠⟩⁠ much weakened?—

I quite agree with what Hooker says that whatever variation is possible under culture is possible under nature;— not that the same form would ever be accumulated & arrived at by selection for man’s pleasure, & by natural selection for the organism’s own good.—

Talking of “Natural Selection”, if I had to commence de novo, I would have used ⁠⟨⁠natural preservation⁠⟩⁠;12 for I find men like Harvey of Dublin cannot understand me; though he has read the Book twice.13 Dr Gray of B. Museum, remarked to me that “Selection was obviously impossible with plants”! “No one could tell him how it could be possible”.—14 And he may now add that the Author did not attempt it to him!—

Yours ever affect | C. Darwin


The points CD discusses were apparently mentioned in the letter from Charles Lyell, 27 September 1860, only a part of which has been found.
CD refers to the third and second parts, respectively, of [Gray] 1860b.
Lyell had travelled in Germany during the summer of 1860.
August David Krohn was a Russian-born zoologist who specialised in the anatomy and embryology of marine invertebrates. Lyell may have met him in Bonn during his continental tour. See letter from Charles Lyell, 18 September 1860, and n.7, below.
Krohn published two articles on the anatomy of Cirripedia in the Archiv für Naturgeschichte (Krohn 1859 and 1860a), the second of which was translated into English and printed in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 6 (1860): 423–8. In his 1860 paper, Krohn stated that CD was incorrect in Living Cirripedia (1851, 1854) in supposing that the horns of the carapace of the larva metamorphosed into what CD called the ‘prehensile antennæ’ of the mature individual (Krohn 1860a, p. 7 n.). Krohn had earlier pointed out CD’s error in believing that the ‘gut-formed glands’ were part of a continuous organ that included the cement ducts and the peduncular tubules (Krohn 1859). Thomas Henry Huxley had tentatively confirmed CD’s observations on these points in T. H. Huxley 1856–7, 15: 239. See Correspondence vols. 4 and 5.
CD had sent a presentation copy of Living Cirripedia (1854) to Krohn (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to T. H. Huxley, 2 September [1854], n. 4). Krohn later sent CD a copy of his study of pteropods and heteropods (Krohn 1860b), which is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Although Krohn was not officially attached to the University of Bonn, he often worked there when he was not at the seaside studying marine fauna. See Blyakher 1982.
See letter to Asa Gray, 26 September [1860]. The source of Gray’s information may have been Baer 1834, p. 15, where Karl Ernst von Baer suggests that the Cavia aperea of America is the wild parent-stock of the European domesticated guinea-pig. He went on to say that the domesticated guinea-pig would no longer pair with the wild parent-stock, and so could be considered a new species.
See letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 August 1860, in which Baer’s initial response to Origin is given. CD had already told Lyell about Baer (letter to Charles Lyell, 11 August [1860]).
The text was excised by Lyell and the missing words added in another hand at the bottom of the page. See n. 12, below.
The words ‘natural preservation’ were cut out by Lyell and sent to CD in a later letter because Lyell could not read what CD had written. See letter to Charles Lyell, 3 October [1860].


Baer, Karl Ernst von. 1834. Das allgemeine Gesetz der Entwickelungsgeschichte der Natur. In Vorträge aus dem Gebiete der Naturwissenschaften und der Oekonomie gehalten vor einem Kreise gebildeter Zuhörer in der physikalisch-ökonomischen Gesellschaft zu Königsberg. Königsberg.

Blyakher, L. Y. 1982. History of embryology in Russia from the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century. Translated from the Russian by H. I. Youssef and B. A. Malek, with an introduction by Jane Maienschein. Washington, D.C.: Al Ahram Center for Scientific Translations for the Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation.

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

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1856–7. Lectures on general natural history. Medical Times & Gazette n.s. 12: 429–32, 481–4, 507–11, 563–7, 618–23; 13: 27–30, 131–4, 157–60, 278–81, 383–6, 462–3, 537–8, 586–8, 635–9; 14: 133–5, 181–3, 255-7, 353–5, 505–8, 638–40; 15: 159–62, 186–9, 238–41, 467-71.

Krohn, August David. 1859. Beobachtungen über den Cementapparat und die weiblichen Zeugungsorgane einiger Cirripedien. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 25 (pt 1): 355–64.

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

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.


Discusses extinction of ammonites.

Discusses August Krohn’s cirripede research and Krohn’s correction of his own work.

Discusses origin of dog in connection with origin of man.

Comments on the guinea-pig in South America.

Notes K. E. von Baer’s view of species.

Mentions difficulty of crossing rabbit and hare.

Agrees with Hooker’s views on variation under cultivation and in nature.

Regrets use of term "natural selection", would now use "Natural Preservation".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.229)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2931,” accessed on 19 July 2024,

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