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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Frederick Wollaston Hutton   20 April 18611

Down, Bromley, Kent.

April 20

Dear Sir

I hope that you will permit me to thank you for sending me a copy of your paper in the Geologist,2 and at the same time to express my opinion that you have done the subject a real service by the highly original, striking and condensed manner with which you have put the case. I am actually weary of telling people that I do not pretend to adduce direct evidence of one species changing into another, but that I believe that this view in the main is correct, because so many phenomena can be thus grouped together and explained. But it is generally of no use, I cannot make persons see this. I generally throw in their teeth the universally admitted theory of the undulation of Light—neither the undulation, nor the very existence of Ether being proved,—yet admitted because the view explains so much.3 You are one of the very few who have seen this and have now put it most forcibly and clearly.4

I am much pleased to see how carefully you have read my Book and what is far more important reflected on so many points with an independent spirit. As I am deeply interested in the subject (and I hope not exclusively under a personal point of view) I could not resist venturing to thank you for the right good service which you have done.

Pray believe me, Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin

I need hardly say that this note requires no answer.


The date is established by the reference to Hutton 1861 (see n. 2, below).
Hutton 1861. A lightly annotated copy of the paper is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Although in letters written soon after the publication of Origin CD had compared his theory with that of gravitation (see Correspondence vol. 7), he subsequently suggested that the undulatory theory of light provided a better analogy (see ibid., vol. 8, letter to J. S. Henslow, 8 May [1860]). See also letters to Cuthbert Collingwood, 14 March [1861], and to George Maw, 17 March [1861]. Thomas Henry Huxley had mentioned this analogy in his comments on Origin at the Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (ibid., vol. 8, letter to T. H. Huxley, 5 [December 1860]).
For CD’s further comments about Hutton’s paper, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [April 1861].


Comments on FWH’s article ["Some remarks on Mr Darwin’s theory", Geologist (1861): 132–6, 183–8]. Does not adduce direct evidence of species change but believes it because so many phenomena thus explained.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Frederick Wollaston Hutton
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 145
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3122,” accessed on 21 July 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9