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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Alexander Agassiz   1 June [1871]1


June 1st.

My dear Mr. Agassiz.

Very many thanks for your kind letter and curious facts about the fishes—2 What an extraordinary number of complex & wonderful structures have been developed in relation to sex!—

I am also particularly glad to hear about the pedicellariæ of the Echino-dermata, the homologies of which I did not in the least know— I must now find out the homologies of the “Birds-beaks” & serrated Bristles of the Bryozoa,—which I remember watching in old days with astonishment.3 I am thinking of bringing out a new & cheap edition of the Origin and if so I shall give a chapter to answering, as far as I can and space permits—Mivarts very clever book.—4 I have no doubt this book will produce a great effect on many— and you will think it blind prejudice when I say it has had none on me. There is not one new point in it though many are admirably illustrated. Mivart never racks his brains to see, what can be fairly said on the opposite side, and he argues as if I had said nothing about the effects of use or the direct action of external conditions; though in another part of the book on those points almost every illustration is taken from my writings & observations.— But I will not bother you with more remarks on this head.

Pray give my most sincere respects to your father. What a wonderful man he is to think of going round Cape Horn; if he does go—I wish he could go through the Straits of Magellan.5

With very kind remembrances from all of us to Mrs. Agassiz,6 and with many thanks for myself— | Pray believe me. | Yours very sincerely. | Ch. Darwin.


The year is established by the reference to St George Jackson Mivart’s Genesis of species (Mivart 1871a), which was published in January 1871 (Publishers’ Circular, 1 February 1871, p. 78).
CD refers to avicularia, one of the specialised zooids that make up the colonial animals of the phylum Bryozoa. These zooids, which resemble the beak of a bird, are usually located on the sides of the stem and protect the colony against fouling organisms, so are functionally similar to the pedicellariae of echinoderms. Some species of Bryozoa have vibracula, long bristle-like zooids that move with a whip-like motion and perform a similar protective function.
CD refers to Mivart 1871a (see n. 1, above) and Origin 6th ed. See letter from Alexander Agassiz, [before 1 June 1871] and nn. 5 and 6.
Louis Agassiz was planning a research trip to California via Cape Horn. See letter from Alexander Agassiz, [before 1 June 1871] and n. 8.
Anna Russell Agassiz visited CD together with her husband in late 1869 (Correspondence vol. 17, letter to Fritz Müller, 1 December [1869] and n. 7).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


Discusses homologies in various animal groups.

Comments on Mivart [Genesis of species].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alexander Agassiz
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 8
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7793,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19