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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Joseph Prestwich   12 March [1860]1

Down. Bromley Kent.

March 12th.

My dear Sir.

The recent important changes in taxation2 will probably have absorbed much of your attention but at some future time when you have a little leisure and when you have read my “Origin of Species” I should esteem it a singular favour if you would send me any general criticisms—3 I do not mean of unreasonable length, but such as you could include in a letter. I have always admired your various memoirs so much that I should be eminently glad to receive your opinion, which might be of real service to me.4

Pray do not suppose that I expect to convert or pervert you; if I could stagger you in ever so slight a degree I should be satisfied; nor fear to annoy me by severe criticisms for I have had some hearty kicks from some of my best friends. If it would not be disagreeable to you to send me your opinion I certainly should be truly obliged—

I find that I have not put clearly how, as it seems to me, the general argument ought fairly to be viewed; namely, natural selection as a mere hypothesis (rendered in some slight degree probable by the analogy of domestication and the struggle for existence.) which hypothesis has to be judged of by whether it explains a number of facts in Geographical Distribution, Geological Succession    Classification, Homology, Embryology &c. If it does explain such facts then the hypothesis seems to me to rise in rank to a theory.

Pray forgive me troubling you with this note, and believe me | My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | C. Darwin.


Dated by the reference to Origin.
Prestwich was the proprietor of a family wine business in London. New tax laws affecting the wine trade were currently being instituted (see Hansard vol. 156).
CD sent Prestwich a presentation copy of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Thomas Henry Huxley, 27 November [1859]).
Prestwich had written important papers on the geology of the coalfields of Shropshire and on the water-bearing strata of the south of England. In 1859 and 1860, he turned his attention to a study of the flint implements found in France and England and their significance for the question of the antiquity of man.


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

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.


Asks if JP can send criticism of Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Prestwich
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2729,” accessed on 17 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8