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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Alphonse de Candolle   6 July 1868

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

July 6 1868.

My dear Sir

I return you my sincere thanks for your long letter, which I consider a great compliment, & which is quite full of most interesting facts & views.1

Your references & remarks will be of great use should a new edition of my book be demanded; but this is hardly probable, for the whole edition was sold within the first week, & another large edtion immediately reprinted which I shd think wd supply the demand forever.2 You ask me when I shall publish on the variation of species in a state of nature.

I have had the M.S. for another volume almost ready during several years, but I was so much fatigued by my last book that I determined to amuse myself by publishing a short essay on The Descent of Man. I was partly led to do this by having been taunted that I concealed my views, but chiefly from the interest which I had long taken in the subject. Now this essay has branched out into some collateral subjects & I suppose will take me more than a year to complete.3 I shall then begin on species, but my health makes me a very slow workman. I hope that you will excuse these details, which I have given to shew that you will have plenty of time to publish your views first, which will be a great advantage to me.

Of all the curious facts which you mention in your letter I think that of the strong inheritance of the scalp-muscles has interested me most. I presume that you wd not object to my giving this very curious case on your authority. As I believe all anatomists look at the scalp-muscles as remnant of the panniculus carnosus which is common to all the lower quadrupeds, I should look at the unusual development & inheritance of these muscles as probably a case of reversion.4

Your observation on so many remarkable men in noble families having been illegitimate is extremely curious; & shd. I ever meet any one capable of writing an essay on this subject I will mention your remark as a good suggestion.

Dr. Hooker has several times remarked to me that morals & politics would be very interesting if discussed like any branch of Natural History, & this is nearly to the same effect with your remarks.5 I agree almost entirely with what you say on acclimatisation & on graft hybrids; I never was more perplexed in my life than to come to any probable decision about Cytisus adami.6 I suppose that you have seen the recent article in the Bot. Zeitung by Dr. Hildebrand on graft hybrids in potatoes; this seems to me the best case yet recorded, & I am repeating his method of trial this year.7

With respect to the hypothesis of Pangenesis very few persons approve of it, but it has some enthusiastic friends; nevertheless I am so presumptious as to have much faith in its vitality.8

With Cordial thanks for your great kindness & sincere respect, I remain, My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully & obliged | Ch. Darwin


CD refers to Variation. There were two issues of the first edition of Variation: the first, of 1500 copies, was published on 30 January; the second, of 1250 copies, was published in February. There were considerable textual differences in the second issue, but it is not possible to distinguish them by the title page. (Freeman 1977, p. 122.)
In the introduction to Variation, CD had written that he planned to publish next on the variation of organisms in a state of nature, the ‘struggle for existence’, and the principle of natural selection, and then on the difficulties opposed to the theory (Variation 1: 8). These further works were not published in CD’s lifetime, but his manuscript notes were transcribed and published in 1975 (Natural selection). For the genesis of Descent and Expression in a planned chapter or essay on humans, see Correspondence vol. 15. CD kept notes made during 1837, 1838, and 1839 on human descent in his M and N notebooks, and in ‘Old and useless notes’ (see Barrett 1980)); he also made careful observations of his children’s expressions (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix III). CD published Descent in 1871, and Expression in 1872.
CD cited Candolle for his information in Descent 1: 20. The panniculus carnosus is a thin sheet of striated muscle embedded in the lowest skin layer of mammals; it produces local movement of the skin. In humans, only vestigial remnants remain. See Landau ed. 1986. CD discussed the panniculus carnosus in Descent 1: 19 and Expression, pp. 101, 298; see also Correspondence vol. 15, letter to William Turner, 1 February [1867].
CD refers to Joseph Dalton Hooker. See, for example, Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [27 or 28 December 1862], where Hooker wrote, ‘I should like to turn the water-spout of Herbert Spencers abstract philosophy on the subject of Nat: Selection as applied to Politics, Govt, & Society:—’
See letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 2 January 1868 and n. 3. Hildebrand published his research in Botanische Zeitung, 16 May 1868 (Hildebrand 1868a). In Variation 2d ed., 1: 420–2, CD gave details of later experiments, but did not mention his own.


Barrett, Paul H. 1980. Metaphysics, materialism, and the evolution of mind. Early writings of Charles Darwin. With a commentary by Howard E. Gruber. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.

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


Thanks AdeC for his long letter full of interesting facts, which will be of great use if a new edition [of Variation] is demanded.

As for when CD will publish on variation in a state of nature: he has had the MS almost ready for several years but Variation fatigued him so much

that "I determined to amuse myself by publishing a short essay on the Descent of Man".

AdeC will have plenty of time to publish his views. Asks permission to quote AdeC on a case of inheritance of scalp-muscles [see Descent 1: 20].

Hooker has expressed a view, similar to AdeC’s, "that morals & politics would be very interesting if discussed like any branch of Natural History".

Agrees with AdeC on acclimatisation

and on graft-hybrids.

CD is repeating Hildebrand’s method in producing graft-hybrid potatoes.

As for Pangenesis, very few people approve of it though it has some enthusiastic friends and CD has much faith in its vitality.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alphonse de Candolle
Sent from
Source of text
Archives de la famille de Candolle (private collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6269,” accessed on 6 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16