RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1923. [Letter to Smith, Elder and Co., 1863]. In Leonard Huxley, The house of Smith Elder. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., p. 23.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe and Christine Chua 5.2022. RN1

NOTE: See the fully annotated letter in Correspondence vol. 11, p. 203.

[page] 22

The second of these scientific reports was by far the most interesting, for it brought Smith, Elder into personal as well as business relations with the first of their authors to achieve world-wide fame. This was Darwin's "Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle," a costly work in five large quarto volumes, aided by a Government grant of £1,000. These volumes were published in succession from 1840 to 1848, at a total price of £8 18s.

From these official reports Smith, Elder also published for Darwin certain extracts in more popular form, namely, "The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs," in 1842, "Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands visited during the Voyage of the Beagle," 1844, and "Geological Observations on South America," 1846.

Early in 1863 the correspondence shows Darwin buying up nearly all remainders of the two latter books, seventy-six and ninety-nine respectively, for five pounds. By 1876, when Victor Carus wished to translate these into German, he had given away all his copies, and the firm had disposed of all their remaining stock. Darwin thereupon arranged to have the two reprinted together under the title of "Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands and parts of S. America visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle.'' Finding that he was correcting heavily, he begged, with his usual sense of fairness, that any excessive cost of corrections should be charged against him. This touch exemplifies one part of George Smith's remarks about Darwin:

"Of all the famous men with whom I have had relations there were very few at all comparable with Darwin in charm of

[page] 23

manner. Its characteristic was suavity, gentleness: a consideration for others which was the expression of a genuine kindliness of nature. I was very young at the time, and could not, perhaps, realise Darwin's greatness as a scientist: but the natural sweetness of his temper and manner quite took my heart captive."

I cannot forbear quoting from a letter of Darwin's (March 3, 1863) a passage very characteristic of these qualities:

"One of my boys has the common passion for collecting postage stamps; he tells me that you issue some peculiar kinds. I know not in the least what they are and perhaps they are for India (at least — have never met with them) and can only be sold in number; but if you have odd copies and could enclose one or two of each kind deducting amount from your cheque, I shd. be glad to please my Boy; but of course you must not think of this for a minute if in any way inconvenient."

In reply, the firm informed him that these stamps were not usually sold to the public, but they gladly presented him with specimens of the 1s., 4d., 3d., 2d. and 1d. issues.

[page] 168


As for the long-drawn controversies in science and theology that sprang into being at the same time as the Cornhill, the Circular makes little reference to them. There is a cautious review of Fitzjames Stephen's Defence of Dr. Rowland Williams in the heresy hunt after "Essays and Reviews." Lyell's forthcoming "Antiquity of Man" is announced, and—spectacular side-issue of the Ape question and Du Chaillu's adventures— a young gorilla is announced also as on its way to Liverpool, where rumour fell flat, the animal proving to be only a chimpanzee. But of Darwin himself, who had published with Smith, Elder years before, so little is known that in announcing his new work on "the recondite subject" of the Fertilization of Orchids, the Circular remarks: "It is curious, by the way, that the poet who took for his subject the Loves of Flowers and Plants, and attracted a great school of admirers about eighty years since, as a romantic botanist, was also named Darwin. We are not aware that Mr. Darwin is in any way connected with the once popular Dr. Darwin, nor do we institute any comparison between minds so different; but the coincidence, if it be a coincidence, is odd."


This document has been accessed 40 times

Return to homepage

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

File last updated 11 May, 2022