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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Anton Dohrn   3 February 1872

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Feb 3 1872

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for having sent me your interesting article in Das Ausland   I infer that there will be a second article; & if you have a spare copy I should be grateful for it.1 I am particularly glad that you were struck with Huxley’s article, which seems to me inimitably good.2 You will have heard that his health has failed & that he has gone to Egypt for 3 months. I believe he intends on his return to visit your establishment at Naples, which I hope flourishes.3

I believe you are quite right about the cause of Wallace’s sad falling away.4 Mr Mivart’s book has produced a great effect in England.5 He much misrepresents my views. The point which seems to have struck most readers in England is about incipient structures not being of use. I have therefore answered this point in some detail in a new edition of the Origin which will soon appear, & of which I will send you a copy for the chance of your liking to read this part.6

I did not know until reading your article that my Descent of Man had excited so much furor in Germany.7 It has had an immense circulation in this country8 & in America; but has met the approval of hardly any naturalists as far as I know. Therefore I suppose it was a mistake on my part to publish it; but any how it will pave the way for some better work—

Believe me | my dear Sir | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


Dohrn’s article ‘Englische Kritiker und Anti-Kritiker über Darwinismus’ was published in the 4 December 1871 issue of Das Ausland (Dohrn 1871e). CD’s copy of the issue is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. At the end of the article Dohrn remarked that a similar review of German criticism would be useful, but no other article has been identified.
In Dohrn 1871e, pp. 1154–7, Dohrn gave a synopsis of Thomas Henry Huxley’s essay ‘Mr. Darwin’s critics’ (T. H. Huxley 1871a).
Huxley stayed at Dohrn’s house in Naples while Dohrn was in Stettin (now Szczecin in Poland; letter from Anton Dohrn to Henrietta Anne Huxley, 7 March 1872 (Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives, Huxley Papers 13: 210); Heuss 1991, pp. 118–19).
Dohrn argued that Alfred Russel Wallace, because of his opposition to mechanistic philosophy, had tried, unsuccessfully, to combine natural selection and spiritualism (Dohrn 1871e, p. 1154).
St George Jackson Mivart had written critically about CD’s theory in On the genesis of species (Mivart 1871a).
In Origin 6th ed., pp. 176–204, CD responded to Mivart’s criticisms regarding the incompetence of natural selection to account for the incipient stages of useful structures. Dohrn’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Origin 6th ed. (see Correspondence vol. 20, Appendix IV).
Descent was published in 1871 and translated into German by Julius Victor Carus (Carus trans. 1871).
Seven thousand five hundred copies of Descent were printed by John Murray in 1871 (Freeman 1977).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Heuss, Theodor. 1991. Anton Dohrn: a life for science. Translated from the German by Liselotte Dieckmann. Berlin and New York: Springer Verlag.

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.


Thanks AD for his article in Das Ausland ["Englische Kritiker und Anti-Kritiker über den Darwinismus", 49 (1871): 1153–7].

Mivart’s book [Genesis of species], which misinterprets CD’s views, has produced a great effect in England.

He has answered the point about incipient structures being useless in new [6th] edition of Origin.

His Descent has had immense circulation, but has met with approval of hardly any naturalists. He supposes it was a mistake to publish it, but it will pave way for a better work.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Felix Anton (Anton) Dohrn
Sent from
Source of text
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München (Ana 525. Ba 699)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8199,” accessed on 25 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20