RECORD: Darwin C. R. 1932. [Letters to John Murray, 1859]. In Paston, George (pseud. for Emily Morse Symonds), At John Murray's- records of a literary circle. 1843-1892. London, pp. 168-70.

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

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

"Murray, John [II], 1808-92. Publisher of 50 Albemarle Street, London. CD's main publisher. 1845 M bought copyright of the 2d edn of Journal from Colburn, for inclusion in his Home and Colonial Library, for £150. 1859 CD and M were on personal terms from the first publication of Origin, 1859. 1877 Published Scepticism in geology and the reasons for it as Verifier a pseudonym of M. Verifier casts doubts on the principle of "causes now in action" as adopted by Lyell and CD et al. 1882 M was on "Personal Friends invited" list for CD's funeral. M published 1st and subsequent editions of ten of CD's books, as well as: 1875 2d edn of Climbing plants (F836). 1879 Erasmus Darwin (F1319). 1869 F. Müller, Facts and arguments for Darwin. 1887 Life and letters (F1452). 1903 More letters, 2 vols. (F1548). 1915 Emma Darwin (F1553). Recollections of CD in "Darwin and his publisher John Murray." Science progress in the twentieth century 3 (1909): 537-542 and John Murray III, 1919, p. 18, both in Darwin Online." (Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe, Darwin: A Companion, 2021)

For complete letters with important editorial notes seeCorrespondence vol. 7, p. 274 [text differs], 277-8.


[page] 168

DARWIN'S "ORIGIN OF SPECIES"

JOHN MURRAY, as an amateur geologist, was keenly interested in the scientific speculations of his day. Like his father, he published the works of Mrs. Somerville, Sir Roderick Murchison and Sir Charles Lyell. In 1845 he bought the copyright of Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle (first published by Colburn) for £150. When, early in 1859, Lyell asked him to consider an important new work by Darwin he readily agreed to read the manuscript with a view to its publication.

"I have learned with pleasure from Sir Charles Lyell," wrote Darwin in March, "that you intend to publish my work on the Origin of Species, but before deciding and offering any terms you desire to see my MS. ... It is the result of more than twenty years' work; but as here given is only a popular abstract of a large work on the same subject, without references to authorities and without long catalogues of facts on which my conclusions are based. The book ought to be popular with a large body of scientific and semi-scientific readers, as it bears on agriculture, the history of our domestic productions and on whole fields of Zoology, Botany and Geology, I have done my best, but whether it will succeed I cannot say. I have been quite surprised at finding how much interested strangers and acquaint-

1 The extracts from unpublished letters from Darwin and some of his critics in this chapter may have some historical interest even for the most modern of the moderns.

[page] 169

ances have been in the subject. Only some small portions are at all abstruse. I hope to be ready for press early in May, and then most earnestly wish to print at a rapid rate, for my health is much broken, and I want rest."

On April 1 Murray replied:

"I hasten to thank you for your obliging letter of yesterday, and for the interesting details regarding your work on species. On the strength of this information, and my knowledge of your former publications, I can have no hesitation in swerving from my usual routine, and in stating at once, even without seeing the MS., that I shall be most happy to publish it for you on the same terms as those on which I publish for Sir C. Lyell."

This meant, he explains, that he would publish an edition—the number of copies to be afterwards agreed upon—and that, as soon as he could ascertain the cost of production, he would make an offer amounting to about two-thirds of the net proceeds.

Darwin wrote by return that he accepted the offer with pleasure, but added: "I feel bound, for your sake and my own, to say in clearest terms that if, after looking over part of MS. you do not think it likely to have a remunerative sale, I completely and explicitly free you from your offer. But you will see that it would be a stigma on my work to advertise it, and then not publish it. My volume cannot be mere light reading, and some part must be dry and even rather abstruse; yet as far as I can judge—perhaps very falsely—it will be interesting to all (and they are many) who care for the curious problems of the origin of all animal forms."

He promised to send, in the course of a few days, the first six chapters of his work which would give a fair, but not too favourable, idea of the whole. He con

[page] 170

cluded with the warning that "It is impossible for you or anyone to judge of the real merit of my book without reading the whole, as the whole is one long argument."


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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

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