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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   15 October [1859]1

Wells Terrace | Ilkley | Otley | Yorkshire

Oct 15th

My dear Huxley

I am here hydropathising & coming to life again after having finished my accursed book, which would have been easy work to anyone else, but half killed me.— I have thought you could give me one bit of information, & I knew not to whom else to apply, viz the addresses of


Von Siebold3

Keyserling. (I daresay Sir Roderick would know latter)4

Can you tell me of any good & speculative foreigners to whom it would be worth while to send copies of my Book “on origin of species”. I doubt whether it is worth sending to Siebold. I shd like to send a few about; but how many I can afford I know not yet till I hear what price Murray affixes.

I need not say that I will send of course one to you, in first week of November.— I hope to send copies abroad immediately.

I shall be intensely curious to hear what effect the Book produces on you. I know that there will be much in it, which you will object to; & I do not doubt many errors. I am very far from expecting to convert you to many of my herisies; but if on the whole, you & two or three others think I am on the right road, I shall not care what the mob of naturalists think. The penultimate chapter, though I believe it includes the truth, will I much fear make you savage.5 Do not act & say like Macleay versus Fleming “I write with aqua fortis to bite into brass.”6

Ever yours | C. Darwin


Dated by CD’s visit to Ilkley Wells hydropathic establishment, 4 October–7 December 1859 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Joachim Barrande’s palaeontological work was much discussed by Charles Lyell and other British geologists. CD cited his views on Silurian fossils and the affinities of ancient species in Origin.
CD was familiar with several of Karl Theodor Ernst von Siebold’s works. A copy of the French translation of his textbook on the comparative anatomy of invertebrates is in the Darwin LibraryCUL, as is the English translation of his important work on parthenogenesis (Siebold 1857),which CD had read soon after publication (Correspondence vol. 6).
Roderick Impey Murchison had travelled with Alexandr Andreevich Keyserling in the Urals in 1844. CD sent Keyserling a copy of Origin and received a letter in reply (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Charles Lyell, 4 [January 1860]).
CD refers to the chapter entitled ‘Mutual affinities of organic beings: morphology: embryology: rudimentary organs’. Huxley had, up to that time, espoused the idea of an archetype to explain the classificatory relations between organisms (see di Gregorio 1984).
The acrimonious debate between John Fleming and William Sharp Macleay concerning the philosophy of classification was carried on in various scientific journals in 1839 and 1840. CD read all the papers involved (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 1a and 10a) and commented on the controversy in his Notebook C (Notebooks).


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

Notebooks: Charles Darwin’s notebooks, 1836–1844. Geology, transmutation of species, metaphysical enquiries. Transcribed and edited by Paul H. Barrett et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the British Museum (Natural History). 1987.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Siebold, Karl Theodor Ernst von. 1857. On a true parthenogenesis in moths and bees; a contribution to the history of reproduction in animals. Translated by William S. Dallas. London: John van Voorst.


Origin is finished.

Asks for names of foreign speculative naturalists.

Hopes THH will think he is on right road despite errors.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 70)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2505,” accessed on 27 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7