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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Edwin Ray Lankester   15 March [1870]1

Down Beckenham Kent

March 15.

My dear Sir

I do not know whether you will consider me a very troublesome man, but I have just finished your book & cannot resist telling you how the whole has much interested me.—2 No doubt, as you say, there must be much speculation on such a subject, & certain results cannot be reached; but all your views are highly suggestive, & to my mind that is high praise. I have been all the more interested as I am now writing on closely allied though not quite identical points. I was pleased to see you refer to my much despised child, Pangenesis who, I think, will some day under some better nurse turn out a fine stripling.—3

It has also much pleased me to see how thoroughly you appreciate (& I do not think that this is general with the men of science) H. Spencer:4 I suspect that hereafter he will be looked at as by far the greatest living philosopher in England, perhaps equal to any that have lived.— But I have no business to trouble you with my notions.— With sincere thanks for the interest which your work has given me, I remain, | yours very faithfully, | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Lankester’s On comparative longevity in man and the lower animals, which was published in 1870 (Lankester 1870).
There is an annotated copy of Lankester 1870 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 482).
Lankester discussed CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis (see Variation 2: 357–404) in Lankester 1870, pp. 30–1, 35.
Lankester discussed Herbert Spencer’s ‘physiological units’ as an alternative to CD’s ‘gemmules’ in Lankester 1870, pp. 32, 35–8.


Lankester, Edwin Ray. 1870. On comparative longevity in man and the lower animals. London: Macmillan.

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.

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


CD much interested by ERL’s book [On comparative longevity (1870)]. Is pleased to find ERL refers to CD’s "despised child" Pangenesis, and is also pleased how thoroughly ERL appreciates Herbert Spencer, a philosopher perhaps equal to any that has lived.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Edwin Ray Lankester
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 249: 92

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7135,” accessed on 19 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18