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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. B. Buckley   23 February 1875

Down Beckenham

Feb. 23. 1875

My dear Miss Buckley

I am grieved to hear of the death of my old and kind friend, though I knew that it could not be long delayed, and that it was a happy thing that his life should not have been prolonged, as I suppose that his mind would inevitably have suffered. I am glad that Lady Lyell has been saved this terrible blow.1 His death makes me think of the time when I first saw him, and how full of sympathy and interest he was about what I could tell him of Coral reefs and South America.2 I think that this sympathy with the work of every other naturalist was one of the finest features of his character. How completely he revolutionised Geology; for I can remember something of pre-Lyellian days.3

I never forget that almost every thing which I have done in science I owe to the study of his great works. Well he has had a grand and happy career, and no one ever worked with truer zeal in a noble cause. It seems strange to me, that I shall never again sit with him and Lady Lyell at their breakfast.— I am very much obliged to you for having so kindly written to me.4

Pray give our kindest remembrances to Miss Lyell,5 and I hope that she has not suffered much in health from fatigue and anxiety.

Believe me, my dear Miss Buckley, | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


Charles Lyell died on 22 February 1875; his wife, Mary Elizabeth Lyell, had died in 1873 (ODNB; see Correspondence vol 21, letter from E. A. Darwin to Emma Darwin, 24 April [1873]).
CD first met Lyell on 29 October 1836 in London, having just returned from the Beagle voyage (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to J. S. Henslow, [30–1 October 1836]). Lyell encouraged him to work on the geology of South America and commented on his paper ‘Elevation on the coast of Chili’ before it was read before the Geological Society of London (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter from Charles Lyell, 26 December 1836). Lyell was enthusiastic about CD’s theories on the formation of coral reefs (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter from Charles Lyell, 13 February 1837). For more on CD’s early contact with Lyell, see J. Browne 1995, pp. 348–54.
CD refers to Lyell’s belief in gradual change in geology, a view that came to be known as uniformitarianism. For more on Lyell’s impact on geology in the nineteenth century, see J. A. Secord 1997.
Buckley’s letter has not been found.
Marianne Lyell.


Browne, Janet. 1995. Charles Darwin. Voyaging. Volume I of a biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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

‘Elevation on the coast of Chili’: Observations of proofs of recent elevation on the coast of Chili, made during the survey of His Majesty’s ship Beagle, commanded by Capt. FitzRoy, R.N. [Read 4 January 1837.] By Charles Darwin. Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 2 (1838): 446–9. [Shorter publications, pp. 32–5.]

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.

Secord, James Andrew. 1997. Introduction to Principles of geology, by Charles Lyell. London: Penguin Books.


Expresses his feelings following the death of Charles Lyell.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Arabella Burton Buckley
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 178
Physical description
2pp & Adraft 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9868,” accessed on 10 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23