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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Shoberl1   16 August [1839]

12 Upper Gower St

August. 16th.—

Dear Sir

I have looked over the M.S. sheets, but do not feel myself competent to give any decided opinion upon the probability of success in their publication.— But thus far I dare venture to say;—that the book will never be highly esteemed by really scientific man.— The definitions (in many cases merely translations of arbitrary terms given to classes) are too short to be of any service & there are not a few trifling inaccuracies in matter & style. In order that a work of this nature should become of authority the author’s name should be known, as having worked in the department of science treated of, which is not the case in this instance.

I presume the recommendation of scientific men would alone give permanent success to a compilation of the kind in question, and as I have said such recommendation I do not believe it will ever receive. Nevertheless, as there are at present many general readers in Geology, to whom I do not doubt this work would be useful & possibly very useful (if cheap) I should not be surprised at its having a considerable sale, but I repeat on this point my opinion is worth nothing—

Of course my name will not be mentioned to the author, whose labour on such a work, if thrown away, one must much regret.—

Believe me dear Sir | Yours truly | Chas. Darwin

P.S. I leave town on August 24th. for five weeks.—2

Be good enough to return me the Phil. Journal, when finished with


The addressee is identified by the distinctive ‘1839’ with which the letter is endorsed and which is identical to the writing on letter of 2 August [1837] addressed to William Shoberl, an assistant to Henry Colburn, the publisher of the Journal of researches.
According to the ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix II) CD left for Maer on 23 August and then attended the British Association meeting in Birmingham. He returned to London on 2 October.


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


Gives his opinion of a MS on geology. It is not really a scientific work. It might sell well, but CD’s opinion on success of sale is worthless.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Shoberl
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 531,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2