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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Henry Huxley   13 January 1862

Jermyn St

Jan 13th. 1862

My dear Darwin

In the first place a new years greeting to you & yours— In the next I inclose this slip—(please return it when you have read it) to shew you what I have been doing in the North—1

Everybody prophesied I should be stoned & cast out of the city gate—but on the contrary I met with unmitigated applauses!!

Three cheers for the progress of liberal opinion!!

The Report is as good as any but they have not put quite rightly what I said about your views—respectg which I took my old line about the infertility difficulty—2

Furthermore they have not reported my statement that whether you were right or wrong—some form of the progressive development theory is certainly true— Nor have they reported here my distinct statement that I believe Man & the apes to have come from one stock.—

Having got this far I find the Lecture better reported in the “Courant” so I send you that instead3

I mean to publish the lectures in full by & bye (about the time the Orchids comes out)4

I suppose somebody her〈e〉 told you that Owen has gone in for progressive development in the second Edition of the ‘Paleontology’ which can only be described as a rather more scoundrelly book than the first—5

The way I am ignored & you are pooh-poohed is glorious6

Ever | Yours faithfully | T H Huxley

I deserved the greatest credit for 〈not〉 having made an onslaught on 〈Brewster〉 for his foolish impertinence 〈of y〉our views in ‘Good words’—7but 〈declined〉 to stir Nationality—which you 〈know (in him)〉 is rather more than his Bible8


Huxley delivered two lectures under the title ‘Relation of man to the lower animals’ before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh on 4 and 7 January 1862, respectively. For an account of the lectures and their reception, see L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 192–4. The newspaper report of the lectures that Huxley initially intended sending has not been identified, since Huxley subsequently decided to send one from a different newspaper (see n. 3, below).
In his review of Origin, Huxley stated that a significant if inconclusive test of whether two individuals represented distinct ‘physiological’ species was to attempt to hybridise them, since distinct species would often either be infertile inter se or produce infertile offspring, whereas varieties of the same species would give rise to fertile progeny ([T. H. Huxley] 1860, pp. 552–5). The lack of any positive evidence ‘that any group of animals has, by variation and selective breeding, given rise to another group which was even in the least degree infertile with the first’ was, he argued, the weakest point in CD’s hypothesis of natural selection (ibid., pp. 567–8). Huxley expressed the same view in the published version of his Edinburgh lectures, stating that his acceptance of CD’s theory of natural selection was subject to proof that ‘physiological species may be produced by selective breeding’ (T. H. Huxley 1863a, p. 108).
Huxley refers to the report of his second lecture that appeared in the Edinburgh Evening Courant, 11 January 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix V); the enclosed copy has not been found.
The substance of Huxley’s Edinburgh lectures was published in T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 57–118. Orchids was published in May 1862 (Freeman 1977, p. 112).
In the first edition of his Palæontology, Richard Owen’s critique of all existing hypotheses to account for the origin of species was followed by a paragraph outlining principles that, he claimed, ‘tended to impress upon the minds of the closest reasoners in Biology a conviction of a continuously operative secondary creative law’ (R. Owen 1860a, p. 407). In the second edition he expanded and emboldened this paragraph, heading it ‘Evidence of origin of species by secondary law’ (R. Owen 1861a, p. xvi) and stating (p. 444): ‘The inductive demonstration of the nature and mode of operation of such secondary continuously operative species-producing force will henceforth be the great aim of the philosophical naturalist’. Owen also changed the heading of another of the concluding sections of the volume from ‘Comparison of uniformitarian and progressional evidences’ to ‘Evidence of progress and advance in organisation’. He added a new paragraph to the section, stating (p. 449): the sum of what is known [from the study of extinct forms] yields the legitimate deduction, that there has been a succession of species illustrating in the main the progressive perfection of the nervous system, and the concomitant predominance of mind over matter. There is a copy of the first edition of the work (R. Owen 1860a) in the Darwin Library–CUL, and of the second edition (R. Owen 1861a) in the Darwin Library–Down; both are lightly annotated (see Marginalia 1: 656).
In the second edition, Owen considerably reduced his already brief account of CD and Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory, removing part of it to a footnote earlier in the text (R. Owen 1861a, pp. 442–3, 434–5 n.; compare R. Owen 1860a, pp. 405–6). The limited nature of Owen’s response to natural selection in the first edition of his Palæontology is discusssed in Rupke 1994, pp. 242–3.
The original letter is damaged. The words and letters in angle brackets have been taken from the text printed in L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 194.


Brewster, David. 1862. The facts and fancies of Mr Darwin. Good Words (1862): 3–9.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

[Huxley, Thomas Henry.] 1860a. Darwin on the origin of species. Westminster Review n.s. 17: 541–70.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Rupke, Nicolaas A. 1994. Richard Owen, Victorian naturalist. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.


Against all predictions his Edinburgh lecture was well received [Evidence as to man’s place in nature (1863)].

Took his old line about problem of infertility of hybrids as a test of CD’s views.

Report [from a newspaper] not quite right about what he said, but they have not refuted his statement that some form of progressive development theory is certainly true, nor that man and the apes come from same stock. Owen has gone in for progressive development in second edition of the Palaeontology [1861].

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Jermyn St
Source of text
DAR 166.2: 290
Physical description
4pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3383,” accessed on 9 August 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10