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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. V. Carus   5 April 1867


April 5th. 1867

My dear Sir,

You will have heard from Schweizerbart that I am willing to translate your new work, the more so, as it is my full conviction, that the progress of biology depends on the firm proving of your theory.1 I am so very much occupied just now and within the next twelve months, that I should feel exceedingly obliged if you would kindly tell me, at what rate your work will be published. I have to complete my handbook of Zoology, then the historical Commission of the Munic Academy asked me to write the History of Zoology, which is to be finished Easter 1868.2 The way in which Schweizerbart will publish the translation will partly depend on the form of the publication of the original. Now can you tell me, if the two volumes will come out at the same time, or one after the other. How long will they be? When will the print begin? The simplest way would be, I think, to send me directly the sheets. I shall do then what I can to keep pace with the English edition   I trust you will kindly allow me to ask you directly on doubtful cases

You will have seen Haeckel’s book on general Morphology.3 I am very sorry that he has not been more moderate. So, as it is, it will do great mischief. There is of course no doubt that it is exceedingly well meant, and it contains capital observations on morphological questions. But by the many personal and quite unnecessary remarks, by the immoderate sharpness of many of his criticisms he weakens the effect. If he had written twenty sheets instead of two big volumes he would have done more and really good. His personal friends, especially Gegenbaur4 and myself, tried in vain to mitigate his fury; and for what I know the critics and reviews he will laugh at, if they don’t agree entirely with him   One cannot even say, that this ought to be the way to promote a new theory or to further any new point of view. Instead of a true philosophy (I am sure he doesn’t know Kant,5 and I can prove it) he introduces a way of reasoning which is almost worse than the so called natural philosophy of yore. There is only one man, to whose judgement he would subdue; that is yours. He would not only mind very much what you tell him about his book, but your opinion will be no doubt the only one which will make some impression on him. He likes to consider himself as martyr of the new monistic theory of the world.6 If you were to tell him that he did you a bad service I dare say he would be cured. I like him so very much that I am sorry for him. He is such an enthusiastic man that even his best friends have no influence over him. The last day, I stayed with Gegenbaur in Jena7 and we both were convinced that one word of you would do more than long disputations with us.

Believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully, | J. Victor Carus

P.S. | Schweizerbart tells me that he has written to Mr Murray about the clichés.8


No letter from Christian Friedrich Schweizerbart, head of the German publishing firm E. Schweizerbart’sche Buchhandlung, confirming Carus’s willingness to translate Variation has been found; however, Schweizerbart had told CD that he had written to Carus to ask him whether he was willing (see letter from E. Schweizerbart, 22 March 1867).
Carus and Adolph Gerstaecker’s Handbuch der Zoologie (Carus and Gerstaecker 1863–75) was published in two volumes, the first volume in 1863, the second in two parts in 1868 and 1875. Carus’s Geschichte der Zoologie (Carus 1872) was published in Munich in 1872 as part of the Historical Commission of the Royal Academy of Science’s series, Geschichte der Wissenschaften in Deutschland (History of science in Germany).
Carus refers to Ernst Haeckel and Haeckel 1866. CD’s annotated copy of Haeckel 1866 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 355–7). For an indication of CD’s initial opinions, see the letter from T. H. Huxley, [before 7 January 1867] and n. 3, and the letter to Ernst Haeckel, 8 January 1867.
Carl Gegenbaur.
Immanuel Kant. For Kant’s influence on biology see Grene and Depew 2004.
Monism, as propounded by thinkers like Haeckel, asserts the fundamental unity of organic and inorganic nature, and abolishes traditional divisions between plant and animal, animal and human (see Tort 1996).
Gegenbaur was a professor of anatomy at Jena.
Carus refers to John Murray and to arrangements for the German publisher Schweizerbart to acquire stereotypes of the illustrations for Variation for Carus’s translation.


Carus, Julius Victor. 1872a. Geschichte der Zoologie bis auf Joh. Müller und Charl. Darwin. Munich: R. Oldenbourg.

Haeckel, Ernst. 1866. Generelle Morphologie der Organismen. Allgemeine Grundzüge der organischen Formen-Wissenschaft, mechanisch begründet durch die von Charles Darwin reformirte Descendenz-Theorie. 2 vols. Berlin: Georg Reimer.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Tort, Patrick. 1996. Dictionnaire du Darwinisme et de l’evolution. 3 vols. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


JVC is willing to translate [Variation], especially because of his conviction that progress of biology depends on proving CD’s theory.

Ernst Haeckel’s book [Generelle Morphologie (1866)] will do mischief because EH is so immoderate. Suggests CD tell EH that he has done him a bad service. CD is the only one to whom EH would listen.

Letter details

Letter no.
Julius Victor Carus
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 58
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5489,” accessed on 6 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15