The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 171 of 188

Charles Darwin to C. Lyell.

Down, March 28th [1859].

My dear Lyell,

If I keep decently well, I hope to be able to go to press with my volume early in May. This being so, I want much to beg a little advice from you.
>From an expression in Lady Lyell’s note, I fancy that you have spoken to Murray. Is it so? And is he willing to publish my Abstract? If you will tell me whether anything, and what has passed, I will then write to him. Does he know at all of the subject of the book? Secondly, can you advise me, whether I had better state what terms of publication I should prefer, or first ask him to propose terms? And what do you think would be fair terms for an edition? Share profits, or what?

Lastly, will you be so very kind as to look at the enclosed title and give me your opinion and any criticisms; you must remember that, if I have health and it appears worth doing, I have a much larger and full book on the same subject nearly ready.

My Abstract will be about five hundred pages of the size of your first edition of the ‘Elements of Geology.’

Pray forgive me troubling you with the above queries; and you shall have no more trouble on the subject. I hope the world goes well with you, and that you are getting on with your various works.

I am working very hard for me, and long to finish and be free and try to recover some health.

My dear Lyell, ever yours,
C. Darwin.

Very sincere thanks to you for standing my proxy for the Wollaston Medal.

P.S. Would you advise me to tell Murray that my book is not more unorthodox than the subject makes inevitable. That I do not discuss the origin of man. That I do not bring in any discussion about Genesis, etc., etc., and only give facts, and such conclusions from them as seem to me fair.

Or had I better say nothing to Murray, and assume that he cannot object to this much unorthodoxy, which in fact is not more than any Geological Treatise which runs slap counter to Genesis.

An Abstract of an Essay On the Origin of Species And Varieties Through Natural Selection
By Charles Darwin, M.A.
Fellow of the Royal Geological and Linnean Societies

etc., etc., etc., etc.

Charles Darwin to C. Lyell.

Down, March 30th [1859].

My dear Lyell,

You have been uncommonly kind in all you have done. You not only have saved me much trouble and some anxiety, but have done all incomparably better than I could have done it. I am much pleased at all you say about Murray. I will write either to-day or to-morrow to him, and will send shortly a large bundle of MS., but unfortunately I cannot for a week, as the first three chapters are in the copyists’ hands.

I am sorry about Murray objecting to the term Abstract, as I look at it as the only possible apology for not giving references and facts in full, but I will defer to him and you. I am also sorry about the term “natural selection.” I hope to retain it with explanation somewhat as thus–

“Through natural selection, or the preservation of favoured Races.”

Why I like the term is that it is constantly used in all works on breeding, and I am surprised that it is not familiar to Murray; but I have so long studied such works that I have ceased to be a competent judge.

I again most truly and cordially thank you for your really valuable assistance.

Yours most truly,
C. Darwin.


  1. ScottS-M Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    ScottS-M wrote:

    That’s funny they tried to talk him out of natural selection. Wonder what we’d be calling it now then.

    And I think some people (i.e. creationists) like to say the long title of Origins of Species is racist because of the “Preservation of Favoured Races” bit (even though Darwin was using “races” as varieties/species of organisms not the current skin color meaning). Funny he didn’t originally want that bit in any way.

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