RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1863. [Letter] Origin of species. Athenæum no. 1854 (9 May): 617.

REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, text prepared and edited by John van Wyhe 2003-8. RN2

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here.

[page] 617


Down, Bromley, Kent, May 5.

I hope that you will grant me space to own that your Reviewer1 is quite correct when he states that any theory of descent will connect, "by an intelligible thread of reasoning," the several generalizations before specified. I ought to have made this admission expressly; with the reservation, however, that, as far as I can judge, no theory so well explains or connects these several generalizations (more especially the formation of domestic races in comparison with natural species, the principles of classification, embryonic resemblance, &c.) as the theory, or hypothesis, or guess, if the Reviewer so likes to call it, of Natural Selection. Nor has any other satisfactory explanation been ever offered of the almost perfect adaptation of all organic beings to each other, and to their physical conditions of life. Whether the naturalist believes in the views given by Lamarck, or Geoffroy St.-Hilaire,2 by the author of the 'Vestiges,' by Mr. Wallace and myself,2 or in any other such view, signifies extremely little in comparison with the admission that species have descended from other species and have not been created immutable; for he who admits this as a great truth has a wide field opened to him for further inquiry. I believe, however, from what I see of the progress of opinion on the Continent, and in this country, that the theory of Natural Selection will ultimately be adopted, with, no doubt, many subordinate modifications and improvements.


1 [Owen 1863] which criticized Darwin's letter to the Athenæum, Darwin 1863.

2 Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844), French zoologist and professor of zoology, Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, 1793.

3 Darwin discussed these earlier evolutionary theorists in the historical sketch added to the 3d and later editions of Origin.

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