RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1908. [Letters to Herbert Spencer and J. D. Hooker, 1858, 1860, 1866, 1867]. In David Duncan, The life and letters of Herbert Spencer. London, pp. 87, 98, 125, 150.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 4.2022. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here. See the complete letters in Correspondence vol. 14, pp. 66, 105 and Correspondence vol. 15, p. 470.

[page] 87

[…] An article on "Physical Training," declined for the Quarterly, had been accepted for the British Quarterly. He had been distributing a few volumes of the Essays. Two of the letters of acknowledgment are worth quoting, Mr. Darwin's being one to which Spencer attached great importance.


25 November (1858).

Your remarks on the general argument of the so-called Development Theory seem to me admirable. I am at present preparing an abstract of a larger work, on the changes of species; but I treat the subject simply as a naturalist, and not from a general point of view; otherwise, in my opinion, your argument could not have been improved on, and might have been quoted by me with great advantage.1

1 Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ii., 141. Autobiography, ii., 27.

[page] 98


2 (February 1860.)

From your letter I infer that you have not received a copy of my book, which I am very sorry for. I told Mr. Murray to send you one, amongst the first distributed in November .... I have now written a preface for the foreign editions and for any future English edition (should there be one), in which I give a very brief sketch (of the progress of opinion), and have much pleasure alluded to your excellent essay on Development in your general Essays.


23 (February, 1860).

I write one line to thank you much for your note. Of my numerous (private) critics, you are almost the only one who has put the philosophy of the argument, as it seems to me, in a fair way— namely, as an hypothesis (with some innate probability, as it seems to me) which explains several groups of facts.1

You put the case of selection in your pamphlet on Population in a very striking and clear manner.


1 See also Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ii., 290.

[page] 125

[…] Of this number ["the fourth number of vol. ii. of the Biology"] Mr, Darwin wrote to Dr. Hooker:-

"It is wonderfully clever and I daresay mostly true. If he had trained himself to observe more, even at the expense, by the law of balancement, of some loss of thinking power, he would have been a wonderful man."

[Darwin to To J. D. Hooker 10 December [1866], Correspondence vol. 14, p. 417.]

[page] 150


"The Nation," wrote Dr. Youmans (May, 1869), "gave you a little thrust the other week, and our friend, Henry Holt, of the firm of Leypoldt and Holt (publishers of Taine), took them to task in last week's paper." The "little thrust" was made in the course of a notice of Taine's Ideal in Art, in which it was said that "it is Herbert Spencer's reputation over again; all very well for the 'general public,' but the chemists and physicians, the painters and the architects, are disposed to scoff at the new light." […]

Darwin, for example, showed no inclination to scoff. "I was fairly astonished,'' he writes, "at the prodigality of your original views. Most of the chapters (of the Biology) furnished suggestions for whole volumes of future researches."

[Darwin to Herbert Spencer 9 December [1867], Correspondence vol. 15, p. 470.]

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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