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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   9 April [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 9th

My dear Huxley

It is hardly worth troubling you, but I shd. like just to tell you that I have looked at Owen’s “Invertebrata” 1st Edit, published before my volume on cirripedes,2 & he admits that the so-called Branchiæ in Balanidæ are respiratory;3 & I feel almost sure that they are so denominated in case of Coronula or Tubicinella in Cat. of Coll. of Surgeons, on I think, Hunter’s belief.—4

I never saw such an amount of misrepresentation.5 At p 530 he says we are called on to accept the hypothesis on the plea of ignorance, whereas I think I could not have made it clearer that I admit the imperfection of geological record as a great difficulty.—

The quotation at p. 512 of Review about “young & rising naturalists with plastic minds”, attributed to “nature of limbs” is a false quotation, as I do not use words “plastic minds”    At p. 501 the quotation is garbled, for I only ask whether naturalists believe about elemental atoms flashing &c, & he changes it into that I state that they do believe.

At p. 500 It is very false to say that I imply by “blindness of preconceived opinion” the simple belief of creation.— And so on in other cases.— But I beg pardon for troubling you.— I am heartily sorry that in your unselfish endeavours to spread what you believe to be truth, you shd. have incurred so brutal an attack.6 And now I will not think any more of this false & malignant attack

Ever yours | C. Darwin

I most thoroughily enjoyed your visit7 & have had a start which will last me for some good time.—

Of course this requires no answer.—


Dated by the reference to Huxley’s recent visit to Down (see n. 7, below).
In R. Owen 1843, p. 158, Richard Owen stated: ‘The ordinal distinction between the pedunculated and sessile Cirripedes is not less strongly manifested by their outward forms than by the branchial organs, which, in the Balanoids, consist of two or more broad, transversly plicated, vascular membranes, attached to the inner surface of the mantle.’ CD’s copy of the second edition of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Owen had compiled a catalogue of specimens held in the Royal College of Surgeons’s museum, which was formed around the collection of the anatomist John Hunter. The two cirripede genera mentioned by CD are described in [R. Owen] 1833–40, 2: 73–4.
CD refers to Owen’s review of Origin ([R. Owen] 1860a), in which Owen criticised CD’s understanding of the anatomy of the branchia of Cirripedia and attacked him on other points. According to Owen, CD had not demonstrated the relation of the folded membranes (branchiae) in Balanidae with the heart or vascular system, ‘which could alone prove the respiratory function of such membranes’ ([R. Owen] 1860a, p. 489). There is an annotated copy of the review in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. In the margin beside these passages, CD wrote in pencil: ‘in Owen lecture 1st Edition, p. 158 these organs are admitted to be Branchiæ & I am almost certain are so admitted by Hunter.’ CD had stated that this organ in sessile cirripedes was homologous with the ovigerous frena in pedunculated forms and pointed to this case as a possible illustration of the transition in function gradually assumed by an organ (Origin, pp. 191–2).
Owen’s review included a scathing attack on Huxley’s Royal Institution lecture of 10 February 1860 in which Huxley discussed CD’s theory (T. H. Huxley 1860a).
Huxley and his wife Henrietta Anne Huxley visited Down on 7 April 1860 (Emma Darwin’s diary).


Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

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.

[Owen, Richard]. 1833–40. Descriptive and illustrated catalogue of the physiological series of comparative anatomy contained in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London. 5 vols. London.


Owen on the branchiae of Balanidae.

The Edinburgh Review article on the Origin [by Owen, 111 (1860): 487–532] full of misrepresentations, with a brutal attack on THH.

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: 111)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2751,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

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