To Charles Lyell 24 November 
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Lyell
I thank you much for your letter.1 I had got to take pleasure in thinking how I could best snub my Reviewers; but I was determined in any case to follow your advice, & before I had got to the end of your letter I was convinced of the wisdom of your advice.2 What an advantage it is to me to have such friend as you.— I shall follow every hint in your letter exactly.—
I have just heard from Murray; he says he sold 700 copies at his sale, & that he has not half the number to supply; so that I must begin at once.3 But I will & must finish my Drosera M.S. which will take me a week, for at this present moment I care more about Drosera than the origin of all the species in the world. But I will not publish on Drosera till next year, for I am frightened & astounded at my results.—4 I declare it is a certain fact, that one organ is so sensitive to touch that a weight of 1/78,000 of a grain (ie seventy-eight times less weight than that, viz of a grain, which will move the best chemical balance) suffices to cause conspicuous movement.— Is it not curious that a plant shd be far more sensitive to a touch than any nerve in the human body! Yet I am perfectly sure that this is true.— When I am on my hobby-horse, I never can resist telling my friends, how well my hobby goes, so you must forgive the rider.—
Farewell my wisest & best of Lord Chancellors.
Yours most truly obliged | C. Darwin
Etty goes on pretty well. All the Doctors say any rapid progress is impossible.—
All this dreadful illness for last six months (& that wicked dear little Drosera) has made any progress in my larger Book almost nothing—
P.S. I must tell you one little fact which has pleased me. You may remember that I adduce Electrical Organs of Fish, as one of the greatest difficulties which had occurred to me, & Owen notices the passage in a singularly disingenous spirit.5 Well Mc.Donnell of Dublin (first rate man) writes to me that he felt the difficulty of whole case as overwhelming against me.6 Not only are the fishes which have electric organs very remote in scale; but the organ is near Head in some & near tail in others & supplied by wholly different nerves.— It seems impossible that there could be any transition.
Some friend who is much opposed to me seems to have crowed over Mc.Donnell, who reports that he said to himself that if Darwin is right there must be homologous organs both near the Head & Tail in other non-electric fish. He set to work & by Jove he has found them. So that some of difficulty is removed, & is it not satisfactory that my hypothetical notions shd have lead to pretty discovery. Mc.Donnell seems very cautious; he says years must pass before he will venture to call himself a believer in my doctrine; but that on the subjects which he knows well viz morphology & embryology my views accord well & throw light on whole subject.—7
Comments on CL’s advice not to reply directly to reviews.
Describes work on his Drosera manuscript.
Work delayed on his "larger book" [Variation].
Comments at length on the evolutionary significance of Robert McDonnell’s investigations ["On an organ in the skate", Nat. Hist. Rev. (1861): 57–60].
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2996,” accessed on 4 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-2996