skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Lyell   4 August 1867

73 Harley Street:

August 4, 1867.

My dear Darwin,—

I must write a word before starting to-morrow morning for Paris, to thank you for your last letter, and to say what a privilege I feel it to be allowed to read your sheets in advance.1 They go far beyond my anticipations, both as to the quantity of original observation, and the materials brought together from such a variety of sources, and the bearing of which the readers of the ‘Origin’ will now comprehend in a manner they would not have done had this book come out first.2 The illustrations of the pigeons are beautiful, and most wonderful and telling for you, and the comparison of the groups with natural families difficult to divide will be most persuasive to real naturalists. The rabbits are famously worked out, osteology and all.3 The reason I have not got on faster is, that I have been correcting the press of my recast of Mount Etna, which I have reviewed twice since my former edition of fourteen years ago,4 also the Santorin eruption of 1866, and my grand New Zealand earthquake, which produced more permanent change than any other yet known.5 I have also had to rewrite my chapters on the ‘Causes of Volcanic Heat,’ the ‘Interior of the Earth,’ &c.6 But all this is in the printers’ hands, and I can now give myself to variation and selection.

Believe me, my dear Darwin, ever affectionately yours, | Charles Lyell.


Lyell went to Paris for the Exposition universelle, held from 1 April to 31 October 1867 (Mainardi 1987, p. 129); see K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 406. CD had arranged for the proof-sheets of Variation to be sent to Lyell (see letter to Charles Lyell, 18 July [1867]).
CD had described Origin as an abstract for which he planned to give further evidence in future volumes (Origin, pp. 1–2). Variation was originally conceived as the first of these supporting volumes, and was to be followed by books on variation in nature and the principle of natural selection (see Variation 1: 1–14).
Variation included twelve illustrations of pigeons and eleven of rabbits, among which were many drawings of bones. For CD’s comparison of his own ‘groups’ of breeds of domestic pigeons with the genera of the family Columbidae, see Variation 1: 157.
Lyell had visited Mount Etna in 1828, 1857, and 1858. He added material from a paper on the volcano (C. Lyell 1858) to the tenth edition of Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1867–8, 2: 1–47). The ninth edition had been published in 1853 (C. Lyell 1853).
For Lyell’s accounts of the eruption in the Gulf of Santorin (now Santorini) and the New Zealand earthquake of 1855, see C. Lyell 1867–8, 2: 69–71 and 82–9.
See C. Lyell 1867–8, 2: 230–2, 209–13.


Lyell, Charles. 1858. On the structure of lavas which have consolidated on steep slopes; with remarks on the mode of origin of Mount Etna, and on the theory of ‘craters of elevation’. [Read 10 June 1858.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 148: 703–86.

Lyell, Charles. 1867–8. Principles of geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants considered as illustrative of geology. 10th edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Mainardi, Patricia. 1987. Art and politics of the Second Empire: the universal expositions of 1855 and 1867. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.

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.

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


Comments on proof-sheets of Variation.

His revisions of Principles of geology, 10th ed.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Harley St, 73
Source of text
K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 415–16

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5595,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

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