The Life and Letters of Darwin, Vol. 1 HTML version

The Writing Of The 'Origin Of Species'
JUNE 18, 1858, TO NOVEMBER, 1859.
[The letters given in the present chapter tell their story with sufficient clearness, and need
but a few words of explanation. Mr. Wallace's Essay, referred to in the first letter, bore
the sub-title, 'On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type,'
was published in the Linnean Society's Journal (1858, volume iii. page 53) as part of the
joint paper of "Messrs. C. Darwin and A. Wallace," of which the full title was 'On the
Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species
by Natural Means of Selection.'
My father's contribution to the paper consisted of (1) Extracts from the sketch of 1844;
(2) part of a letter addressed to Dr Asa Gray, dated September 5, 1857, and which is
given above. The paper was "communicated" to the Society by Sir Charles Lyell and Sir
Joseph Hooker, in whose prefatory letter, a clear account of the circumstances of the case
is given.
Referring to Mr. Wallace's Essay, they wrote:
"So highly did Mr. Darwin appreciate the value of the views therein set forth, that he
proposed, in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, to obtain Mr. Wallace's consent to allow the
Essay to be published as soon as possible. Of this step we highly approved, provided Mr.
Darwin did not withhold from the public, as he was strongly inclined to do (in favour of
Mr. Wallace), the memoir which he had himself written on the same subject, and which,
as before stated, one of us had perused in 1844, and the contents of which we had both of
us been privy to for many years. On representing this to Mr. Darwin, he gave us
permission to make what use we thought proper of his memoir, etc.; and in adopting our
present course, of presenting it to the Linnean Society, we have explained to him that we
are not solely considering the relative claims to priority of himself and his friend, but the
interests of science generally."]
Down, 18th [June 1858].
My dear Lyell,
Some year or so ago you recommended me to read a paper by Wallace in the 'Annals'
('Annals and Magazine of Natural History', 1855.), which had interested you, and, as I
was writing to him, I knew this would please him much, so I told him. He has to-day sent
me the enclosed, and asked me to forward it to you. It seems to me well worth reading.
Your words have come true with a vengeance--that I should be forestalled. You said this,
when I explained to you here very briefly my views of 'Natural Selection' depending on