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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ernst Haeckel   21 May [1867]1

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

May 21

Dear Häckel

Your letter of the 18th has given me great pleasure, for you have received what I said in the most kind & cordial manner.2 You have in part taken what I said much stronger than I had intended. It never occurred to me for a moment to doubt that your work with the whole subject so admirably & clearly arranged, as well as fortified by so many new facts & arguments, wd not advance our common object in the highest degree.—

All that I think is that you will excite anger & that anger so completely blinds every one that your arguments wd. have no chance of influencing those who are already opposed to our views. Moreover I do not at all like that you towards whom I feel so much friendship shd unnecessarily make enemies, & there is pain & vexation enough in the world without more being caused. But I repeat that I can feel no doubt that your work will greatly advance our subject, & I heartily wish it cd be translated into English for my own sake & that of others. With respect to what you say about my advancing too strongly objections against my own views, some of my English friends think that I have erred on this side; but truth compelled me to write what I did, & I am inclined to think it was good policy.

The belief in the descent theory is slowly spreading in England, even amongst those who can give no reason for their belief. No body of men were at first so much opposed to my views as the members of the London entomolog. Soc; but now I am assured that with the exception of 2 or 3 old men all the members concur with me to a certain extent.3 It has been a great disappointment to me that I have never recd your long letter written to me from the Canary I.s. I am rejoiced to hear that your tour which seems to have been a most interesting one has done yr health much good.4 I am working away at my new book, but make very slow progress & the work tries my health, which is much the same as when you were here.5

Victor Carus is going to translate it,6 but whether it is worth translation I am rather doubtful

I am very glad to hear that there is some chance of your visiting England this autumn & all in this house will be delighted to see you here.

Believe me my dear Häckel | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Ernst Haeckel, 12 May 1867.
See letter from Ernst Haeckel, 12 May 1867. CD was mistaken about the date. CD had commented on Haeckel’s Generelle Morphologie (Haeckel 1866) in his letter to Haeckel of 12 April [1867].
CD was himself a founder member of the Entomological Society of London. He had written before about the supposed hostility of entomologists to his views: see, for example, Correspondence vol. 8, letter to H. W. Bates, 22 November [1860], and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Charles Lyell, 17 March [1863]. On the attitude of members of the society to CD’s views, see Poulton 1901. A member of the society who consistently opposed CD’s theory of descent was John Obadiah Westwood (see Neave et al. 1933, p. 131).
CD refers to Variation. Haeckel had visited CD at Down House in October 1866 (see Correspondence vol. 14).
The German translation of Variation was by Julius Victor Carus (Carus trans. 1868)


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

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.

Poulton, Edward Bagnall. 1901. The influence of Darwin upon entomology. Entomologist’s Record 13: 72–6.

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


Discusses his previous criticisms of EH’s Generelle Morphologie. Fears it will make enemies.

Discusses reception of descent theory in England.

Mentions EH’s trip to Canary Islands.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ernst Philipp August (Ernst) Haeckel
Sent from
Source of text
Ernst-Haeckel-Haus (Bestand A-Abt. 1-52/14)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5544,” accessed on 27 October 2021,

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