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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. W. Bennett   29 February [1872]1

9. Devonshire St. | Portland Place

Feb. 29th

My dear Sir

I have no address book with me, & so am obliged to send this note to care of Mr. Macmillan.—2 It is to ask you to be so kind as to send on Post-card a reference to Prof. Shaler’s paper.—3 He sent me last autumn some account of his observations on Rattle-snakes, but his view did not then, & does not yet, seem to me probable.—4

I thank you sincerely for your generous review of the last. Edit. of the Origin,—more especially as we differ so greatly & I quite agree with you that the only way to arrive at the truth is to discuss & freely express all differences of opinion5

My dear Sir | yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the address. CD stayed at 9 Devonshire Street from 13 February until 21 March 1872 (CD’s Journal (Appendix II)).
Bennett was the biological subeditor of Nature; Alexander Macmillan was its publisher (ODNB).
Nathaniel Southgate Shaler’s article ‘The rattlesnake and natural selection’ appeared in the January 1872 issue of American Naturalist (Shaler 1872).
Shaler’s view was communicated to CD by Henry Bowman Brady, who had met Shaler in Boston (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter from H. B. Brady, 18 October 1871). Shaler argued that rattlesnakes mimicked the sound of cicadas, thereby attracting birds within striking range (Shaler 1872, p. 34). Bennett had referred to Shaler 1872 in his review of Origin 6th ed. (see n. 5, below).
Bennett’s review of Origin 6th ed. appeared in Nature, 22 February 1872, pp. 318–19. Although Bennett disagreed with CD on several points, he praised CD for not concealing points on which he had changed his mind (p. 318), and as ‘having contributed a larger share’ than any other naturalist to solving the problem of the production of new species (p. 319).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

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.

Shaler, Nathaniel Southgate. 1872. The rattlesnake and natural selection. American Naturalist 6: 32–7.


Asks AWB for a reference to a paper;

thanks him for his generous review of the last edition [6th] of the Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred William Bennett
Sent from
London, Devonshire St, 9
Source of text
Kōbunzo (dealers)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8227,” accessed on 3 July 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20