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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Herbert Spencer   9 December [1867]1

Down | Bromley | Kent. S.E.

Dec 9th.

My dear Mr. Spencer

I thank you very sincerely for your kind present of your First Principles.2 I earnestly hope that before long I may have strength to study the work as it ought to be studied, for I am certain to find or refind much that is deeply interesting. In many parts of your Principles of Biology I was fairly astonished at the prodigality of your original views.3 Most of the chapters furnished suggestions for whole volumes of future researches. As I have heard that you have changed your residence I am forced to address this to Messrs. Williams & Norgate;4 and for the same reason I gave some time ago the same address to Mr. Murray for a copy of my book on Variation etc which is now finished but delayed by the index-maker.5

Pray believe me, with sincere thanks | Yours very truly | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to work on the index of Variation.
CD refers to the second edition of First principles (Spencer 1867); there is a copy in the Darwin Library–Down. There is a copy of the first edition (Spencer 1860–2) in the Darwin Library–CUL.
For a bibliographical account of Spencer’s Principles of biology (Spencer 1864–7) and its relationship to First principles (Spencer 1860–2), see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from A. R. Wallace, 2 January 1864, n. 20. For more on CD’s opinion of Spencer 1864–7, see, for example, Correspondence vol. 14, letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 June [1866] and n. 8. CD’s annotated instalments of Spencer 1864–7 are in the Darwin Library–CUL as a bound volume (see Marginalia 1: 769–73).
Williams & Norgate were Spencer’s publishers. In September 1866, Spencer moved to a boarding house in Queen’s Gardens, Bayswater, where he lived for more than twenty years. However, he was absent from London in the summer of 1867 owing to the death of his mother, and made a tour of England in the autumn of 1867 (Spencer 1904, 2: 145–62).
CD refers to John Murray and to William Sweetland Dallas’s delay in completing the index of Variation. See also letter from W. S. Dallas, 8 December 1867.


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

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.

Spencer, Herbert. 1860–2. First principles. London: George Manwaring; Williams & Norgate.

Spencer, Herbert. 1864–7. The principles of biology. 2 vols. London: Williams & Norgate.

Spencer, Herbert. 1867. First principles. 2d edition. London: Williams & Norgate.

Spencer, Herbert. 1904. An autobiography. 2 vols. London: Williams and Norgate.


Thanks for copy of HS’s First principles [? 2d ed. (1867)].

Comments on HS’s Principles of biology [1864, 1867].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Herbert Spencer
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 485a
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5717,” accessed on 27 October 2021,

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