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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Albert Gaudry   17 September [1866]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Sep 17.

Dear Sir

I received some time ago your kind present of your Considerations Génerales … de Pikermi; but I have delayed thanking you until I had time to read your work.2 I have now done so with the greatest possible interest. Your observations on many points, especially on the various intermediate fossil forms, seem to me most valuable;3 & I formerly read with great interest some of your memoirs in the Bull. Soc. Geolog. de France, especially that on fossil monkeys.4 I will venture to make one little criticism, namely that you do not fully understand what I mean by “the struggle for existence, or concurrence vitale;5 but this is of little importance as you do not at all accept my views on the means by which species have been modified.

With my sincere appreciation of the value of you paleontological discoveries, & with my thanks for your obliging present

I have the honour to remain | Dear Sir | yours faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Gaudry’s paper (see n. 2, below).
The paper that Gaudry had sent CD was an offprint of the second chapter of a larger work on the fossil animals of Greece (Gaudry 1862–7). CD’s separately paginated offprint, published in 1866 under the title Considérations générales sur les animaux fossiles de Pikermi (Gaudry 1866), is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL; it is annotated.
Gaudry noted that many of the Miocene fossils he found at Pikermi in Greece showed characteristics of two or more groups of animals. He wrote that one could see the passage from order to order, family to family, genus to genus, and species to species in these intermediate forms, noting, for example, how the horns of Tragocerus showed characteristics of both the antelope and the goat (see Gaudry 1862–7, p. 347). He included several graphs showing the branching from one or two Miocene species to several related species in later epochs (ibid., pp. 348–55).
Gaudry claimed that a Miocene fossil monkey (Mesopithecus) he had found in Greece showed characteristics of two modern genera, macaques (Macaca) and Semnopithecus; he referred to the monkey as a ‘type transitionnel’ (see Gaudry 1862, p. 1023). Although CD did not cite this article specifically, he referred to Gaudry’s finding in Descent 1: 197.
In the conclusion of his monograph, Gaudry argued that his research had shown not that Greece had been a scene of conflict and disorder (‘un théâtre de luttes et de désordres’) in the distant past, but rather that everything existed in harmony. He then suggested that the gradual transformation of species was effected by the creator himself, working like an artist, and that each transformation reflected his infinite beauty (Gaudry 1862–7, p. 370). CD may have been alluding to this statement as a misunderstanding of the notion of struggle for existence.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Gaudry, Albert. 1862–7. Animaux fossiles et géologie de l’Attique, d’après les recherches faites en 1855–56 et en 1860 sous les auspices de l’Académie des Sciences. 1 vol. and atlas. Paris: Libraire de la Société Géologique de France.

Gaudry, Albert. 1862. Sur le singe fossile de Grèce. Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France 2d ser. 19: 1022–5.

Gaudry, Albert. 1866. Considérations générales sur les animaux fossiles de Pikermi. Extract from Animaux fossiles et géologie de l’Attique. Paris: F. Savy.


Thanks AG for Considérations générales [sur les animaux fossiles] de Pikermi [1866]. The observations on the various intermediate fossil forms seem most valuable.

AG does not fully understand what CD means by "the struggle for existence, or concurrence vitale".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Albert-Jean (Albert) Gaudry
Sent from
Source of text
Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Milan (Library: Fondo Gaudry b. 7, fasc. 28, doc. 1)
Physical description
LS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5213,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

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