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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   [after 11 November 1871]1

My dear W.

You can, if you think fit, send enclosed to Capt. Jones. & this will save you trouble.2 No doubt proofs will reach you soon.— The new Chapt. 7. I daresay will have to be much corrected by me.—3

I do not think much of Cope’s essay, which I read long ago.4 He writes very obscurely, but is an excellent naturalist. He looks, following Agassiz at a genus as something essentially distinct from a species, which I believe to be quite an error.—5

Dear old Man | Yours affect | C. D.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. E. Darwin, 11 November 1871.
CD refers to Robert Owen Jones. The enclosure has not been found, but see the letter from R. O. Jones, 20 November 1871.
William was reading proofs of Origin 6th ed. (see letter to W. E. Darwin, [November 1871]). CD added a substantially new seventh chapter to Origin 6th ed. to answer objections by St George Jackson Mivart and others to the theory of natural selection.
See Correspondence vol. 16, letter from W. E. Darwin, 11 November 1868 and n. 4. CD’s annotated copy of Cope 1868 is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Edward Drinker Cope’s views on the appearance of sudden modifications due to acceleration or retardation in the age of reproduction are briefly discussed in Origin 6th ed., p. 149. Cope’s ‘law of the acceleration of growth’ is discussed in Bowler 1977, pp. 250–1.
CD refers to Louis Agassiz. In his copy of Cope 1868, CD wrote: ‘He assumes some fundamental distinction between specific, generic, & ordinal characters—Evil effects of Agassiz’. Cope’s theory of genera was partly based on a system of embryological types that evolved in a progressive and linear fashion. For a discussion of Cope’s evolutionary theory in relation to that of CD, see Bowler 1977, pp. 251–9.


Bowler, Peter John. 1977. Edward Drinker Cope and the changing structure of evolutionary theory. Isis 68: 249–65.

Cope, Edward Drinker. 1868. On the origin of genera. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (1868): 242–300.

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

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


Sends enclosure for Captain Jones.

Comments on essay by E. D. Cope ["On the origin of genera", Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 20 (1868): 242–300].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.502)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8039,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19