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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   7 December [1862]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Dec. 7th

My dear Huxley

I was on point of adding to an order to Williams & Norgate for your Lectures, when they arrived, & much obliged I am.2 I have read them with interest & they seem to me very good for their purpose & capitally written as is everything which you write. I suppose every-book now-a-days requires some pushing, so that if you do not wish these Lectures to be extensively circulated,3 I suppose they will not; otherwise I shd. think they would do good & spread a taste for the Natural Sciences. Anyhow I have liked them; but I get more & more, I am sorry to say, to care for nothing but natural history; & chiefly, as you once said, for the mere species question.4 I think I liked no III the best of all.5 I have often said & thought that the process of scientific discovery was identical with every day thought, only with more care; but I never succeeded in putting the case to myself with one-tenth of the clearness with which you have done.—6 I think your second Geological section will puzzle your non-scientific readers; anyhow it has puzzled me, & with the strong middle line, which must represent either a line of stratification or some great mineralogical change, I cannot conceive how your statement can hold good.—7

I am very glad to hear of your “three-year old” vigour, but I fear with all your multifarious work that your Book on Man will necessarily be delayed.—8 You bad man you say not a word about Mrs. Huxley, of whom my wife & self are always truly anxious to hear.—9

My dear Huxley | Ever yours very truly | C. Darwin

I see in Cornhill mag. a notice of work by Cohn which apparently is important on the contractile tissue of Plants.10 You ought to have it reviewed.11 I have ordered it, & must try & make out, if I can, some of the accursed German, for I am much interested in subject and experimented a little on it this summer, and came to conclusion that plants must contain some substance most closely analogous to the supposed diffused nervous matter in the lower animals: or as, I presume, it would be more accurate to say with Cohn, that they have contractile tissue.12


The year is established by the relationship to the letter from T. H. Huxley, 2 December 1862.
Huxley sent CD the first three numbers of T. H. Huxley 1862c on 2 December 1862 (see letter from T. H. Huxley, 2 December 1862). CD commonly bought his books from the London booksellers and publishers Williams and Norgate, who specialised in scientific literature (CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS), Modern English biography). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 November 1862.
CD refers to the fact that Huxley had not personally arranged for his lectures to be published, but that they had been published from shorthand notes, without any revisions, by an enterprising publisher. See letter from T. H. Huxley, 2 December 1862 and n. 2.
The reference has not been identified.
The third of Huxley’s lectures, delivered on 24 November 1862, was headed ‘The method by which the causes of the present and past conditions of organic nature are to be discovered.— The origination of living beings’ (T. H. Huxley 1862c, pp. 53–82).
T. H. Huxley 1862c, pp. 53–68. On CD’s views concerning scientific method, see Ghiselin 1969 and Ruse 1975.
T. H. Huxley 1862c, p. 40 and fig. 5. CD refers to Huxley’s argument that in continuously stratified rocks the upper stratum in one locality might be deposited before the lower stratum in a second locality. Huxley used this case as an example of his doctrine that the stratigraphic identity of deposits in different areas did not necessarily indicate identity in the dates of deposition (T. H. Huxley 1862c, pp. 39–42). See also letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 May 1862, and letter to T. H. Huxley, 10 May [1862].
See letter from T. H. Huxley, 2 December 1862. Huxley had been working intermittently on Evidence as to man’s place in nature (T. H. Huxley 1863a) since early in the year (A. Desmond 1994, pp. 301, 304).
CD refers to Henrietta Anne Huxley and Emma Darwin.
CD refers to a review in the November 1862 number of the Cornhill Magazine ([Herschel] 1862, pp. 853–5), evidently of Cohn 1860, although the reviewer gave the date as ‘1862’. There is an annotated copy of the number of the Abhandlungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für vaterländsche Cultur: Abtheilung für Naturwissenschaften und Medicin containing this paper in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Huxley was editor-in-chief of the Natural History Review (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 209–10). No review of Cohn 1860 appeared in the Natural History Review; however an abstract was published in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 11 (1863): 188–202.


Cohn, Ferdinand Julius. 1860. Ueber contractile Gewebe im Pflanzenreiche. [Read 1 November 1860.] Abhandlungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für vaterländische Cultur. Abtheilung für Naturwissenschaften und Medicin 1 (1861): 1–48.

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

Ghiselin, Michael T. 1969. The triumph of the Darwinian method. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

[Herschel, John Frederick William.] 1862. On the existence of muscles in plants. In "Our survey of literature and science". Cornhill Magazine 6: 853–5.

Modern English biography: Modern English biography, containing many thousand concise memoirs of persons who have died since the year 1850. By Frederick Boase. 3 vols. and supplement (3 vols.). Truro, Cornwall: the author. 1892–1921.


On THH’s Lectures to working men.

Work by Ferdinand J. Cohn on the contractile tissue of plants ["Über contractile Gewebe im Pflanzenreich" Abh. Schlesischen Ges. Vaterl. Cult. 1 (1861)] seems important. CD has come to the conclusion that there must be some substance in plants analogous to the supposed diffused nervous matter in lower animals.

[Part of P.S. missing from original.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 145: 227, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 179)
Physical description
4pp inc & C 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3848,” accessed on 17 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10