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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. R. Grove   31 August 1866

Southill House | Shepton Mallet

Aug 31 1866

Dear Darwin

Many thanks for your letter1   I thought I had expressed the adaptation theory in the passage p 30 beginning “The doctrine of Cuvier”— Possibly you mean that I have not given examples of the special means—2 as to special facts if I had given only one or two (& more than a few I had no space for), they would have been cavilled at—their value greatly depending on their number   I was anxious to put forward such arguments as seemed to me unanswerable & which addressed themselves not merely to specialists—

I said not much about the adaptation view though entirely agreeing with it because the answer would have been that the argument cut both ways as whether an animal by circumstance Natural selection &c became suited to locality in conformation habits &c—or was specially created for p⁠⟨⁠arti⁠⟩⁠cu⁠⟨⁠lar⁠⟩⁠ circumstances the adaptation would equally be a necessity— an animal or plant must within limits be adapted to circumstance or not be at all—

I wanted the authorities much to press on you the chair of the British Assn. but all agreed your health would not stand it & I now agree, for it is most trying & exciting work even when as at Nottingham most successful3

yrs most truly | W R Grove

I have only just returned


CD’s letter has not been found.
The page number evidently refers to a manuscript version of Grove’s address to the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which has not been found. In W. R. Grove 1866, the passage mentioned begins on page lxxv and offers a Lamarckian explanation of adaptation. Grove refers to Georges Cuvier. For CD’s reaction to Grove’s speech, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 August [1866] and n. 6.
Grove refers to his experience as president of the British Association, which met at Nottingham in 1866.


Grove, William Robert. 1866. Address of the president. Report of the thirty-sixth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Nottingham, pp. liii–lxxxii.


Responds to CD’s criticism of his handling of adaptation theory [in Rep. BAAS 26 (1866): liii–lxxxi].

Letter details

Letter no.
William Robert Grove
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Shepton Mallet
Source of text
DAR 165: 231
Physical description
ALS 4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5201,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14