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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   26 October [1860]

15 Marine Parade | Eastbourne

Oct 26th

My dear Henslow

Many thanks for your note & for all the trouble about the seeds, which will be most useful to me next spring.—1 On my return home I will send the shillings.—2

I concluded that Dr Bree had blundered about the Celts.3 I care not for his dull unvarying abuse of me & singular misrepresentation    But at p. 244 he in fact doubts my deliberate word, & that is the act of a man who has not the soul of a gentleman in him. Kingsley is “the celebrated Author & Divine” whose striking sentence I give in 2d. Edition with his permission:4 I did not chose to ask him to let me use his name, & as he did not volunteer, I had of course no choice.

I read with interest your letter in Athenæum.5 Lyell seems to consider the deposits ordinary fluviatile beds, & not as showing signs of a debacle.6 It is the most interesting subject which Geology has turned up for many a long year.—

Dr Freke has sent me his paper,7—which is far beyond my scope,—something like the capital quiz in the Anti-Jacobins on my Grandfather, which was quoted in the Quarterly Rw.8

My poor girl improved during the first four weeks here, but has had this last week a fearful attack, & is much exhausted, & we are much dispirited about her.— When we shall be able to take her home, I cannot conjecture.

My dear old master | Yours affect. | C. Darwin


See letters to J. S. Henslow, 14 May [1860], 17 May [1860], and 28 September [1860].
CD usually paid a small sum to the girls in Henslow’s parish who collected seeds for him.
CD refers to Charles Robert Bree’s denial of the antiquity of the so-called celts or flint implements found in drift deposits (Bree 1860, p. 220): They have never yet been found to occupy any stratum, in which they could not have been buried by the ancient people, who used them as spear heads. Professor Henslow has several which I gave him, and which were found in the gravel-beds in Suffolk, mingled with bones of the mammoth and rhinoceros. Surely we are not called upon to found an argument against special creation, upon such facts as these? Henslow discussed the subject in a letter to the Athenæum, 11 February 1860, pp. 206–7.
Bree 1860, p. 244. Bree insinuated that CD might have fabricated the remark by a ‘celebrated author and divine’ included in Origin 2d ed., p. 481. Bree wrote: ‘I think we ought to have had the name of this Divine, given with this remarkable statement. I confess that I have not yet fully made up my mind, that any Divine could have ever penned lines, so fatal to the truths he is called upon to teach.’ Charles Kingsley had made the remark in a letter to CD (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter from Charles Kingsley, 18 November 1859).
A letter from Henslow discussing his recent examination of celts in drift deposits in France was published in the Athenæum, 20 October 1860, p. 516. See also letter to J. S. Henslow, 28 September [1860].
CD refers to a point discussed in Henslow’s letter in the Athenæum (see n. 5, above). Henslow concluded that at least a few sites showed signs of the gravel having been disturbed, and hence the evidence was insufficient to conclude decisively that the implements were contemporaneous with the gravel deposits. He suggested that localised ‘cataclysmic action’ of water might have washed out and intermingled deposits from the Chalk with those in the gravel (Athenæum, 20 October 1860, p. 516).
Freke 1860. There is a copy of the review of Origin by Henry Freke in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
CD refers to a satirical attack on Erasmus Darwin’s evolutionary poems composed by John Hookham Frere and George Canning and published in the political journal they edited, the Anti-Jacobin ([Frere and Canning] 1798). Samuel Wilberforce had quoted a long passage on the generation of ‘filaments of organization’ from the satire in his anonymous review of Origin ([Wilberforce] 1860, p. 255). Henry Freke also discussed the generation of living matter in his review (Freke 1860).


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Bree, Charles Robert. 1860. Species not transmutable, nor the result of secondary causes. Being a critical examination of Mr Darwin’s work entitled ‘Origin and variation of species’. London: Groombridge & Sons. Edinburgh: Maclachlan & Stewart.

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

Freke, Henry. 1860. Observations upon Mr Darwin’s recently published work—“On the origin of species by means of natural selection”. Dublin: privately printed.

Origin 2d ed.: 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. 1860.

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.

[Wilberforce, Samuel.] 1860. [Review of Origin.] Quarterly Review 108: 225–64.


CD does not mind C. R. Bree’s dull, unvarying abuse and misrepresentation, but when he doubts CD’s deliberate word, "that is the act of a man who has not the soul of a gentleman in him".

JSH’s letter in Athenæum ["Flints in the drift", 20 Oct. 1860, p. 516] is interesting.

H. Freke’s paper [On the origin of species by means of organic affinity (1861)] is beyond CD’s scope.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A81–2
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2964,” accessed on 5 December 2021,

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