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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   [24 March – 3 April 1860]1


My dear L.

What wonderful zeal & kindness you show! I hope enclosed will do.—2 I have thought myself compelled not to speak of personal qualifications, of which I know nothing.— I could not allude to precedent under Ld. Auckland,3 for I know nothing about it,—not even whether there was naturalist.

I will write to Blyth this afternoon.— C. D.

I now feel certain that Sedgwick is author of article in Spectator.4 No one else would use such abusive terms. And what misrepresentation of my notions! Any ignoramus would suppose that I had first broached the doctrine that the breaks between successive formations marked long intervals of time. It is very unfair.— But poor dear old Sedgwick seems rabid on question.—   Demoralised understanding!!5 If ever I talk with him, I will tell him that I never could believe that an inquisitor could be a good man, but now I know that a man may roast another & yet have as kind & noble a heart as Sedgwick’s.—


The date range is set by the publication of Adam Sedgwick’s review of Origin (see n. 4, below) and by CD’s letter to Asa Gray, 3 April [1860], which comments on it.
Lyell and CD were apparently writing a testimonial for Edward Blyth, curator of the museum of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, who was seeking a position as naturalist to the Chinese military expedition of 1860. See Correspondence vol. 7, letters to W. H. Sykes, 20 December [1859], and to Charles Lyell, 29 [December 1859].
George Eden, Earl of Auckland, was governor-general of India from 1836 to 1842. He had also served as president of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal and was vice-president of the Zoological Society of London at the time of his death in 1849. CD perhaps alludes to Eden’s Afghan campaign of 1839.
Adam Sedgwick’s anonymous review of Origin ([Sedgwick] 1860) was published in the Spectator on 24 March 1860 and reprinted on 7 April in order to correct two mistakes.
CD refers to a passage in Sedgwick’s review ([Sedgwick] 1860, p. 286): But I cannot conclude without expressing my detestation of the theory, because of its unflinching materialism; … because it utterly repudiates final causes, and thereby indicates a demoralised understanding on the part of its advocates.


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.

[Sedgwick, Adam.] 1860. Objections to Mr Darwin’s theory of the origin of species. Spectator, 24 March 1860, pp. 285–6. [Reprinted with revisions in ibid., 7 April 1860, pp. 334–5.]


Discusses letter of recommendation for Edward Blyth.

Sedgwick’s review of the Origin in the Spectator [24 Mar 1860].

Mentions breaks between geological formations.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.204)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2734,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

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