The Life and Letters of Darwin, Volume 2 HTML version
The Publication Of The 'Origin Of Species'
OCTOBER 3, 1859, TO DECEMBER 31, 1859.
[Under the date of October 1st, 1859, in my father's Diary occurs the entry: "Finished
proofs (thirteen months and ten days) of Abstract on 'Origin of Species'; 1250 copies
printed. The first edition was published on November 24th, and all copies sold first day."
On October 2d he started for a water-cure establishment at Ilkley, near Leeds, where he
remained with his family until December, and on the 9th of that month he was again at
Down. The only other entry in the Diary for this year is as follows: "During end of
November and beginning of December, employed in correcting for second edition of
3000 copies; multitude of letters."
The first and a few of the subsequent letters refer to proof sheets, and to early copies of
the 'Origin' which were sent to friends before the book was published.]
C. LYELL TO CHARLES DARWIN. (Part of this letter is given in the 'Life of Sir
Charles Lyell,' volume ii. page 325.) October 3d, 1859.
My dear Darwin,
I have just finished your volume and right glad I am that I did my best with Hooker to
persuade you to publish it without waiting for a time which probably could never have
arrived, though you lived till the age of a hundred, when you had prepared all your facts
on which you ground so many grand generalizations.
It is a splendid case of close reasoning, and long substantial argument throughout so
many pages; the condensation immense, too great perhaps for the uninitiated, but an
effective and important preliminary statement, which will admit, even before your
detailed proofs appear, of some occasional useful exemplification, such as your pigeons
and cirripedes, of which you make such excellent use.
I mean that, when, as I fully expect, a new edition is soon called for, you may here and
there insert an actual case to relieve the vast number of abstract propositions. So far as I
am concerned, I am so well prepared to take your statements of facts for granted, that I do
not think the "pieces justificatives" when published will make much difference, and I
have long seen most clearly that if any concession is made, all that you claim in your
concluding pages will follow. It is this which has made me so long hesitate, always
feeling that the case of Man and his races, and of other animals, and that of plants is one
and the same, and that if a "vera causa" be admitted for one, instead of a purely unknown
and imaginary one, such as the word "Creation," all the consequences must follow.