skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   10 October 1871

My dear Darwin

Haeckel was the first person to make a special division of birds for Archæopteryx under the nebulous Sauriuræ See ‘Generelle Morphologie’ II CXXXIX—1 The step was one of his good shots—for he had never examined the point & his reasons are anything but good   I believe I was the first to shew the distinctiveness of the Ratitæ (ostriches) & to point out that they come nearest not to mammals but to Reptiles—2

As regards Zeuglodon I have paid particular attention to the question and I have no doubt whatever that they represent the transitional form between the Carnivora & the Cetacea— I send proof sheets of part of a little manual of vertebrate Anatomy of which I hope you will get a copy in a day or two that you may see what I think about it exactly3

I argued the matter out in my Hunterian Lectures years ago4   Pray keep the proof of the Review— I am very glad Hooker likes it— I hope to see him in a day or two & talk over his troubles—5

I have just returned from Manchester & Birmingham   I was delivering an address 112 hours long to a couple of thousand people at the latter place three times last night6

At Manchester also I got in for a lot of speech making but imagine the fun of being taken to a new club they have established on the model of our Metaphysical7—and meeting our friend Mivart there of all people in the world

I am afraid I made him horridly uncomfortable by telling him that I had reviewed his book— And I added by way of soothing him—“but I have been really savage only to the Quarterly Review”— He said he “did not mind about that” and I am really in doubt whether he wrote the Review or not—unless he is a much bigger humbug than I have imagined him to be.8

The wife tells me to say you may be sure the Review will appear in another volume of Essays9

She will take care of that

with kindest regards to all | Ever Yours faithfully | T H Huxley

26. Abbey Place | Oc. 10th. 1871


See letter to T. H. Huxley, 9 October [1871]. Huxley refers to Ernst Haeckel and to Haeckel 1866.
See T. H. Huxley 1868. Huxley divided the class Aves into three orders: Saururae (represented only by Archaeopteryx); Ratitae; and Carinatae (see T. H. Huxley 1867). In Origin 6th ed., p. 302, CD added, ‘Even the wide interval between birds and reptiles has been shown by [Huxley] to be partially bridged over in the most unexpected manner, on the one hand, by the ostrich and extinct Archeopteryx, and on the other hand, by the Compsognathus, one of the Dinosaurians.’
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 9 October [1871] and n. 2. Huxley refers to Huxley 1871a.
Huxley was Hunterian Professor of the Royal College of Surgeons of England from 1862 to 1869 (ODNB).
Huxley refers to Joseph Dalton Hooker and to T. H. Huxley 1871b (see letter to T. H. Huxley, 5 October [1871]). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [2 October 1871] and n. 10.
Huxley delivered an address, ‘Administrative nihilism’, at the Midland Institute in Birmingham on 9 October 1871 (T. H. Huxley 1871c).
The Metaphysical Society was founded in 1869 to ‘bring together men of diverse views … and effect … a rapprochement unattainable by written debate’ (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 313–14). Huxley may also refer to the Scientific and Mechanical Society of Manchester, founded in 1870 (Kargon 1977, p. 183).
Huxley’s article, ‘Mr. Darwin’s critics’ (T. H. Huxley 1871b), reviewed St George Jackson Mivart’s On the genesis of species (Mivart 1871a) and his anonymous review of Descent published in the Quarterly Review ([Mivart] 1871c). Mivart’s authorship of the anonymous review is confirmed by the Wellesley index.
Huxley refers to Henrietta Anne Huxley. Huxley’s review (T. H. Huxley 1871b) was reprinted in Critiques and addresses (T. H. Huxley 1873).


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

Haeckel, Ernst. 1866. Generelle Morphologie der Organismen. Allgemeine Grundzüge der organischen Formen-Wissenschaft, mechanisch begründet durch die von Charles Darwin reformirte Descendenz-Theorie. 2 vols. Berlin: Georg Reimer.

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1867. On the classification of birds; and on the taxonomic value of the modifications of certain of the cranial bones observable in that class. [Read 11 April 1867.] Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1867): 415–72.

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1873. Critiques and addresses. London: Macmillan.

Kargon, Robert Hugh. 1977. Science in Victorian Manchester: enterprise and expertise. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

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.

Wellesley index: The Wellesley index to Victorian periodicals 1824–1900. Edited by Walter E. Houghton et al. 5 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1966–89.


Answers CD on transitional forms. Has no doubt Zeuglodon is transitional form between Carnivora and Cetacea.

Met Mivart in Manchester. Some doubt that he was the author of Quarterly Review article.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Abbey Place, 26
Source of text
DAR 166: 326
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8000,” accessed on 16 May 2021,

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