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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Lubbock   2 July [1869]1

High Elms

2 July

Dear Mr. Darwin

In the “Origin” 4 Ed. P 532 you say that Agassiz regards it as a law of nature that the embryos indicate the structure of their Ancestor, so that the embryos of existing species resemble the mature forms of extinct ones.2

Can you give me the reference for this?

Hoping you are all well, & enjoying yourselves in Wales.3

Yours very sincerely | John Lubbock

C Darwin Esq

CD annotations

1.1 In … nature] double scored ink
1.1 that the embryos 1.2] ‘of existing species’ added ink
1.2 their Ancestor … ones. 1.3] ‘early [precursors] in the same class, their progenitors,— I shd cover this.—’ interl ink
Top of letter: ‘See to this & write to Victor Carus’4 ink


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to John Lubbock, 3 August 1869.
Lubbock refers to Louis Agassiz.
CD was on holiday at Caerdeon, Barmouth, Wales (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 17, Appendix II)).
CD refers to Julius Victor Carus.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Asks for reference to Louis Agassiz’s views on embryos indicating ancestral structures.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Lubbock, 4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
High Elms
Source of text
DAR 170: 73
Physical description
2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6813,” accessed on 15 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17