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To Samuel Birch    8 April [1856]


His thanks for the extracts sent by SB.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Samuel Birch
Date:  8 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  British Museum (Department of the Middle East, correspondence 1826–67: 1494)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1851A

To T. H. Huxley   9 April [1856]


Arrangements for visit of Huxleys to Down on 26 Apr.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Thomas Henry Huxley
Date:  9 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 33)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1852

From Richard Thomas Lowe   12 April 1856


Discusses the flora of Porto Santo in relation to that of Madeira. While these islands have some 20 endemic species in common, there are 7 or 8 species endemic to Porto Santo alone, and 25 common to Porto Santo and Europe that are not found on Madeira. Believes the great difference in soil and climate is enough to explain this: plants common on one island cannot be made to grow on the other. Believes J. D. Hooker has underestimated the number of species endemic to Madeira. There are some remarkable endemic species of common plants in the Dezertas.

The eel is the only freshwater fish on Porto Santo and Madeira.

Author:  Richard Thomas Lowe
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  12 Apr 1856
Classmark:  Kinnordy MS (private collection)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1852A

To Henry Tibbats Stainton   13 April [1856]


Thanks HTS for Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer [no. 2, 12 Apr 1856]. Agrees with his remarks [in "Why did Mr Westwood get the Royal Medal?"], but explains that a change in rules for awarding the Royal Medal has been made. Earlier it had to be given for publications in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which explains small number of entomologist recipients.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Henry Tibbats Stainton
Date:  13 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  Natural History Museum, Library and Archives (General Special Collections MSS DAR 16)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1853

From C. J. F. Bunbury   16 April 1856



Is interested by what CD tells him about his researches and speculations on species, variation, and distribution. Hopes he will not give up the idea of publishing his views. Advises CD on need for caution and candour. Raises some difficulties with "specific centre" theory of distribution.

Author:  Charles James Fox Bunbury, 8th baronet
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  16 Apr 1856
Classmark:  DAR 205.2: 218
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1854

To Charles Lyell   21 April [1856]


Speculates about cause of inclination in unusual columns of lava. Suggests CL check with William Hopkins about sliding movements in viscid matter.

Comments on CL’s expedition to Madeira.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Date:  21 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.126)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1855

To C. J. F. Bunbury   21 April [1856]


CD writes on geographical distribution – "a grand game of chess with the world for a board".

Gives his hypothetical explanation why zoology of Cape [of Good Hope] is not so peculiar as its botany: it was once a group of islands – later united.

Tries hard to set forth the difficulties of his [species] theory.

Tells CJFB in confidence of his theory of the glacial epoch and its effect on plant distribution, such as identical species being found on summits of mountains in the tropics. Invites him to attack his "doctrine".

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Charles James Fox Bunbury, 8th baronet
Date:  21 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds (Bunbury Family Papers E18/700/1/9/6)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1856

To Godfrey Wedgwood   21 April [1856]


Thanks GW for his report about the rabbits at Sandon [Staffs.]. Fears case has broken down, except that it is now known that such a breed has run wild for some years. No need to send bodies since breed is so obscure.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Godfrey Wedgwood
Date:  21 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  Barbara and Robert Pincus (private collection)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1857

To Edward Sabine   23 April [1856]


CD and Hooker suggest Sir John Richardson for Royal Medal. Other suggestions are George Bentham, Joseph Prestwich, Albany Hancock.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Edward Sabine
Date:  23 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  The Royal Society (Sa: 387)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1858

To John Lubbock   24 April [1856]


Congratulations on JL’s marriage. Invitation to dine at Down with the Hookers, Huxleys, and T. V. Wollaston.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  John Lubbock, 4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury
Date:  24 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  DAR 263: 2 (EH 88206448)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1859

To W. B. Tegetmeier   25 April [1856]


Foresees WBT will work out poultry so well that CD will "be gladly saved the trouble". Would like some eggs from WBT’s Polish fowl and thanks him for acquiring the Indian laughing pigeons.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Date:  25 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1860

To Miss Holland   [May 1856]


An entomologist who has been staying with CD [T. V. Wollaston] says the pupa she sent would turn into a lackey moth.

Adds that the great destruction of birds in the winter preceding the last is probable cause of survival of caterpillars and resulting numerous cocoons.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Miss Holland
Date:  [May 1856]
Classmark:  American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1861

From Charles Lyell   1–2 May 1856



Urges CD to publish his theory with small part of data.

Corrects names of land shells on list of shells picked up at Down.

Discusses transport of Ancylus from one river-bed to another by water-beetle.

"I hear that when you & Hooker & Huxley & Wollaston got together you made light of all Species & grew more & more unorthodox."

Mentions discussion of old Atlantis by Oswald Heer.

Comments on Helix and Nanina.

Mentions beetle discovered with small bag of eggs of water-spider under wing.

Madeira evidence favours single species birth-place theory.

Author:  Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  1–2 May 1856
Classmark:  DAR 205.3: 282
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1862

To Asa Gray   2 May [1856]


Suggests affinities of the U. S. flora that he considers would be worth investigating. Wants to know the ranges of species in large and small genera.

Questions AG on naturalised plants; whether any are social in U. S. which are not so elsewhere and how variable they are compared with indigenous species. Would like to know of any differences in the variability of species at different points of their ranges and also the physical states of plants at the extremes of their ranges.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Asa Gray
Date:  2 May [1856]
Classmark:  Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (4)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1863

From Samuel Pickworth Woodward   2 May 1856


Proportion of molluscan species to genera in various periods. The difficulty of determining species increases with the number of species per genus. Identifying species within a genus is most difficult in that period in which the genus shows its greatest development.

Author:  Samuel Pickworth Woodward
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  2 May 1856
Classmark:  DAR 181: 153
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1864

From Laurence Edmondston   [before 3 May 1856]



The vaunted fidelity of the ark bird has its exceptions.

Gives some details on wild pigeons.

Answers in the affirmative CD’s query about drifted trees.

Author:  Laurence Edmondston
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [before 3 May 1856]
Classmark:  DAR 205.2: 229
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1865

To Charles Lyell   3 May [1856]


Discusses possibility of publishing a sketch of his views.

Comments on CL’s letter [1862].

Mentions various geological topics.

Asks to borrow publication by Heer.

Mentions flight of Colymbetes over ocean.

Recalls visit by Wollaston.

Notes views of Hooker and Huxley on species.

Mentions ability of ducks to transport plant seeds.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Date:  3 May [1856]
Classmark:  American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.127)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1866

To Laurence Edmondston   3 May [1856]


Thanks for reply to queries.

Requests that a wild rock-pigeon be sent. Have they been domesticated as William Macgillivray says [History of British birds (1837) 1: 275–84; see also Variation 1: 185n.]?

Is rabbit wild in Shetlands?

LE’s information on drifted trees adds an archipelago to his list.

Requests information on variation in domesticated Shetland animals;

bones of large quadrupeds in peat.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Laurence Edmondston
Date:  3 May [1856]
Classmark:  L. D. Edmondston (private collection)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1867

To T. H. Huxley   4 May [1856]


It seems improper that his advances to G. B. Sowerby Jr for payment of engravings should not have been mentioned to Council of Ray Society. His appreciation of the Society.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Thomas Henry Huxley
Date:  4 May [1856]
Classmark:  Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 35)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1868

From J. D. Hooker   7 May 1856



Non-endemic Ascension Island plants brought by man, not wind-transported.

Bentham has found intermediates between oxlip and cowslip in Herefordshire.

JDH finds quantity of albumen in seeds is not variable within a species.

Author:  Joseph Dalton Hooker
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  7 May 1856
Classmark:  DAR 100: 94–5
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1869
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Darwin in letters, 1856-1857: the 'Big Book'


In May 1856, Darwin began writing up his 'species sketch’ in earnest. During this period, his working life was completely dominated by the preparation of his 'Big Book', which was to be called Natural selection. Using letters are the main…

Matches: 21 hits

  • … On 14 May 1856, Charles Darwin recorded in his journal that he ‘Began by Lyell’s …
  • … Charles Lyell and Joseph Dalton Hooker, who were joined in 1856 by Hooker’s friend the American …
  • … only source of information about his preoccupations during 1856 and 1857. They reveal little noticed …
  • … might work in nature ( letter from Charles Lyell, 1–2 May 1856, n. 10 ). He was surprised that no …
  • … remarked to Hooker ( letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 September [1856] ). I mean to make my …
  • … on plants. Expanding projects set up during 1855 and 1856 (see  Correspondence  vol. 5), he tried …
  • … first two chapters of his species book, completed by October 1856 (‘Journal’; Appendix II). …
  • … Gray, vary in the United States ( letter to Asa Gray, 2 May 1856 )? What about weeds? Did they …
  • … hermaphrodite’ ( letter to to T. H. Huxley, 1 July [1856] ), which became a source of amusement in …
  • … that Asa Gray and Hooker confirmed during the course of 1856. Science at home: the botanical …
  • … many different experiments on plants through the summers of 1856 and 1857, particularly with garden …
  • … have grown well.’ ( letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 December [1856] ). His faith in his ideas …
  • … trees (see letters to William Erasmus Darwin, [26 February 1856] and to Charles Lyell, 3 May …
  • … Waring Darwin, the sixth and last, was born on 6 December 1856) was a constant worry, particularly …
  • … in New South Wales ( letter to Syms Covington, 9 March 1856 ). Many other topics, …
  • … the geological phenomenon of cleavage, still unresolved in 1856, with John Phillips and entered into …
  • … visited the Darwins at Down House for several days in April 1856, and Darwin took this opportunity …
  • … made in a letter written by Lyell from London on 1–2 May 1856. Darwin took the suggestion seriously …
  • … him to write up his views ( letters to J. D. Hooker, 9 May [1856] ). Darwin had also …
  • … At a second weekend party held at Down on 26 and 27 April 1856, he had discussed the question of …
  • … doctrine.’ ( letter from Charles Lyell, 1–2 May 1856, n. 7 ). The excitement and intellectual …

Darwin and Fatherhood


Charles Darwin married Emma Wedgwood in 1839 and over the next seventeen years the couple had ten children. It is often assumed that Darwin was an exceptional Victorian father. But how extraordinary was he? The Correspondence Project allows an unusually…

Matches: 4 hits

  • … were built to the area (Darwin to J. D. Hooker,  8 April [1856] ). This meant that most of the …
  • … family duties (Darwin to W. B. Tegetmeier,  19 November [1856] ) made him unable to travel to many …
  • … his son William,  [30 October 1858] ). In one letter in 1856, he explained his paternal feelings …
  • … in this world.’ (Darwin to Syms Covington,  9 March 1856 ) In the late nineteenth century, …

Dramatisation script


Re: Design – Adaptation of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Asa Gray and others… by Craig Baxter – as performed 25 March 2007

Matches: 2 hits

  • … 21 JULY 1855 14  C DARWIN TO A GRAY, 14 JULY 1856 15  A GRAY TO C DARWIN …
  • … 1855 23  JD HOOKER TO C DARWIN, 9 NOVEMBER 1856 24  C DARWIN TO JD …



Darwin’s most famous work, Origin, had an inauspicious beginning. It grew out of his wish to establish priority for the species theory he had spent over twenty years researching. Darwin never intended to write Origin, and had resisted suggestions in 1856…

Matches: 2 hits

  • … to write Origin, and had resisted suggestions in 1856 that he publish a short version of his …
  • … in persuading Darwin not to publish an abstract in 1856 , Darwin explained to whole affair to him …

Six things Darwin never said – and one he did


Spot the fakes! Darwin is often quoted – and as often misquoted. Here are some sayings regularly attributed to Darwin that never flowed from his pen.

Matches: 1 hits

  • … Spot the fakes! Darwin is often quoted – and as often misquoted. Here are some sayings regularly …

Dates of composition of Darwin's manuscript on species


Many of the dates of letters in 1856 and 1857 were based on or confirmed by reference to Darwin’s manuscript on species (DAR 8--15.1, inclusive; transcribed and published as Natural selection). This manuscript, begun in May 1856, was nearly completed by…

Matches: 5 hits

  • … Many of the dates of letters in 1856 and 1857 were based on or confirmed by reference to Darwin’s …
  • … as Natural selection ). This manuscript, begun in May 1856, was nearly completed by June 1858. At …
  • … 2 13 October 1856 [Variation under domestication] [2] …
  • … 11 13 October 1856 Geographical distribution (DAR 14; …
  • … 3 16 December 1856 On the possibility of all organic …



There are more than five hundred letters associated with the research and writing of Darwin’s book, Descent of man and selection in relation to sex (Descent). They trace not only the tortuous route to eventual publication, but the development of Darwin’s…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … research notes, including letters going back to at least 1856 . Among them were accounts of …

Darwin’s reading notebooks


In April 1838, Darwin began recording the titles of books he had read and the books he wished to read in Notebook C (Notebooks, pp. 319–28). In 1839, these lists were copied and continued in separate notebooks. The first of these reading notebooks (DAR 119…

Matches: 27 hits

  • … [DAR *128: 160] Mansfield’s Paraguay [Mansfield 1856] } read Chesterton Prison Life …
  • … Hutchison Dog Breaking 3 d . Edit [Hutchinson 1856] new information on Pointer & Retriever …
  • … Annal des Sc. Nat. 4 th  Series. Bot. Vol 6 [Naudin 1856]. Read Notes to Jardine & …
  • … 1855 Sept. Tegetmeier on Poultry [Tegetmeier 1856–7] —— 27 th . Mem. de l’Acad. …
  • … Das Ganze der Landwirttschaft [Kirchhof 1835].— 1856. Jan 10 th  G. Colin Traite de …
  • … [Rudolphi 1812] [DAR 128: 16] 1856 Jan 21. Huc’s Chinese Empire [Huc …
  • … Mar 1 Veith Naturgeschichte Haussaugethiere [Veith 1856].— 3 d  Knox Races of Man.— 1850 [R …
  • … 1741–55] d[itt]o [DAR 128: 17] 1856 . Jan 28. Watt’s Life by Muirhead …
  • … [Pepys 1848–9]— April 21 Sandwitt Kars [Sandwith 1856]. [DAR 128: 18] March …
  • … 1851–6] —— Wollaston on Variation [Wollaston 1856] F. Smith on Apidæ [F. Smith 1855] …
  • … 1835 [H. C. Watson 1835] [DAR 128: 20] 1856 June 26. Davis J. Barnard. …
  • … 1855] —— 19 Von Tschudi Alpine life [Tschudi 1856] 30. Brehm Handbuch Vogel …
  • … 1857 Nov. 15. Andersson Lake Gnami [Andersson 1856] —— 26 Slightly skimmed Forbes …
  • … 1765] Oct. 23. Tracings of Iceland Chambers [Chambers 1856]. —— Mansfield Travels in …
  • … 2 vols July D r . Kane’s Arctic Voyage [Kane 1856] Sept. 12. Ch. Napiers Life …
  • … rubbish yet amusing Nov. 15. Tender & True [Spence] 1856]: H. Coverdale [Smedley [1854–6] …
  • … Travels I ever read) Sept. Froude Henry VIII [Froude 1856]. 4 vols very interesting. …
  • … —— 16 Zoologist [ Zoologist ]. up Vol. 14. 1856 May 9 th  Voyage au Pol. Sud. Consid. Gen …
  • … 1859 Feb. 28 Olmstead S. States [Olmsted 1856] (excellent) March 21. Mill on Liberty …
  • … The revised edition of Johnston’s  Physical atlas  (1856) included ‘Map of the distribution of …
  • … 113  The  Cottage Gardener  ceased publication in 1856. 114  CD marked this entry …
  • … vols. London.  119: 14a Andersson, Carl Johan. 1856.  Lake Ngami; or, explorations and   …
  • … [Darwin Library.]  119: 20a; *128: 173 ——. 1856.  Tracings of Iceland and the Faröe …
  • … [Other eds.]  119: 9a Chesterton, George Laval. 1856.  Revelations of prison life;   …
  • … 128: 5 Davis, Joseph Barnard and Thurnam, John. 1856–65.  Crania   Britannica. …
  • … Three visits to Madagascar during   the years 1853, 1854, 1856 . London.  128: 24 …
  • … . Lundæ.  *119: 5v. Froude, James Anthony. 1856.  History of England from the   fall of …

Before Origin: the ‘big book’


Darwin began ‘sorting notes for Species Theory’ on 9 September 1854, the very day he concluded his eight-year study of barnacles (Darwin's Journal). He had long considered the question of species. In 1842, he outlined a theory of transmutation in a…

Matches: 9 hits

  • … naturalist Edward Forbes. Darwin declared to Hooker in July 1856 ‘y ou continental extensionists …
  • … of his old friend, the geologist Charles Lyell, who, in May 1856, twenty months after Darwin had …
  • … urgency to publish and, following Lyell’s advice in May 1856, began to write a sketch his theory. ‘I …
  • … without full details. ’ Writing to his cousin Fox in June 1856, Darwin openly confessed his fears …
  • … work ’ he had ‘desisted’. By November 1856, he had both good and bad news to report to Lyell: ‘ …
  • … press. Although Darwin had decided in the autumn of 1856 to write only from the materials he …
  • … wrote ten and a half chapters of his Big Book between May 1856 and June 1858. With a total of …
  • … length ’, he had complained to Hooker in December 1856. By mid-1858, only the first chapter on …
  • … being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858 (Cambridge University …

Thomas Henry Huxley


Dubbed “Darwin’s bulldog” for his combative role in controversies over evolution, Huxley was a leading Victorian zoologist, science popularizer, and education reformer. He was born in Ealing, a small village west of London, in 1825. With only two years of…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … Owen, and Louis Agassiz (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 9 May 1856 and 21 May 1856). But he considered …

Women’s scientific participation


Observers | Fieldwork | Experimentation | Editors and critics | Assistants Darwin’s correspondence helps bring to light a community of women who participated, often actively and routinely, in the nineteenth-century scientific community. Here is a…

Matches: 2 hits

  • … Letter 1836  - Berkeley, M. J. to Darwin, [7 March 1856] Clergyman and botanist …
  • … Letter 1836  - Berkeley, M. J. to Darwin, [7 March 1856] Clergyman and botanist Miles …

Hermann Müller


Hermann (Heinrich Ludwig Hermann) Müller, was born in Mühlberg near Erfurt in 1829. He was the younger brother of Fritz Müller (1822–97). Following the completion of his secondary education at Erfurt in 1848, he studied natural sciences at Halle and Berlin…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … it was the subject of his first scientific paper (Müller 1856). In the autumn of 1855, Müller …

Scientific Networks


Friendship|Mentors|Class|Gender In its broadest sense, a scientific network is a set of connections between people, places, and things that channel the communication of knowledge, and that substantially determine both its intellectual form and content,…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … Letter 1979 — Darwin, C. R. to Lubbock, John, 27 Oct [1856] Darwin provides detailed …

Correlation of growth: deaf blue-eyed cats, pigs, and poison


As he was first developing his ideas, among the potential problems Darwin recognised with natural selection was how to account for developmental change that conferred no apparent advantage.  He proposed a ‘mysterious law’ of ‘correlation of growth’ where…

Matches: 2 hits

  • … to write up a ‘preliminary essay’ on his views in 1856, he went back to Fox to check his facts, …
  • … the African explorer and army surgeon William Daniell in 1856 was probably in reply to such a …

Begins 'Natural Selection'


Darwin begins writing his 'big book', Natural Selection. The book was never finished, but later formed the basis for On the Origin of Species

Matches: 1 hits

  • … Darwin begins writing his 'big book', Natural Selection. The book was never finished, but …

Language: key letters


How and why language evolved bears on larger questions about the evolution of the human species, and the relationship between man and animals. Darwin presented his views on the development of human speech from animal sounds in The Descent of Man (1871),…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … The origin of language was investigated in a wide range of disciplines in the nineteenth century. …

Tenth child born


The Darwins' tenth and last child, Charles Waring Darwin, is born

Matches: 1 hits

  • … The Darwins' tenth and last child, Charles Waring Darwin, is born …

The writing of "Origin"


From a quiet rural existence at Down in Kent, filled with steady work on his ‘big book’ on the transmutation of species, Darwin was jolted into action in 1858 by the arrival of an unexpected letter (no longer extant) from Alfred Russel Wallace outlining a…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … work preparing his ‘big book’ on species. Begun in May 1856 at the urging of Lyell, the manuscript …

Darwin in letters, 1872: Job done?


'My career’, Darwin wrote towards the end of 1872, 'is so nearly closed. . .  What little more I can do, shall be chiefly new work’, and the tenor of his correspondence throughout the year is one of wistful reminiscence, coupled with a keen eye…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … `big book’,  Natural selection , begun in 1856.  Coming hard on the heels of  The descent of man …

The expression of emotions


Darwin’s work on emotional expression, from notes in his Beagle diary and observations of his own children, to questionnaires, and experiments with photographs, was an integral part of his broad research on human evolution. It provided one of the main…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … his other children followed, and the record was kept through 1856. Darwin’s wife, Emma also recorded …
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