RECORD: Carpenter, W. B. 1882.06.13. [Recollection of Darwin in a letter to Francis Darwin]. CUL-DAR198.33. Edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 4.2021. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Darwin Online manuscript catalogue, enter its Identifier here.

Reproduced with permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.


June 13/82


Dear Mr Francis Darwin

The only letters of importance that I have preserved, are those which relate to the help it was my privilege to be able to give your Father, in procuring a favourable consideration for his immortal work. These I am sure, will be of interest to you, —particularly as showing his own modest appreciation of it. It now seems almost ridiculous that he should have expressed himself in the terms he did, as regards my general acceptance of his views.

I may mention, in explanation of them, that when he was good enough to send me his 'Origin of Species', I wrote to thank him for it as I had acquainted myself with the general drift of his arguments and had read the last chapter.

He is quite correct in saying that I must have previously self-thought out the subject in some degree; the fact being that I had been early put on the track of the 'variability of species' by Dr Prichard, had given much attention to the question as occasion for adding to my stock of information upon it offered, had made it the subject of a Lecture at the meeting of the British Assocn in Glasgow in 1855, and had enlarged upon it in my Memoir on Orbitolites in the Phil. Trans in 1855, […] I had expressed my readiness to entertain any hypothesis of Evolution that could hold waters scientifically. And I had been strongly impressed by Baden Powell's admirable essay in favour of Geological Continuity. (I had, indeed, paid a good deal more attention to that part of the subject than your Father was aware of, —as he afterwards came to recognise; and was quite prepared to accept to the full his argument on the "Imperfection of the Geological Record") Consequently, when I saw that your Father had got hold of a definite scientific doctrine, I was fully prepared to give it the favourable consideration which his own previous admirable work entitled it to claim from every scientific man.

I have no doubt that after carefully studying the book (I used to read a chapter every morning after breakfast) I wrote to convey to him my views; […]

His 4th letter shows his kind appreciation of the Review I wrote in the National –then edited by Hutton & Bagehot. And his 5th expressed his gratification abt a Review & subsequently wrote in the "British & Foreign Medico Chirurgical Review", which took up several points not noticed in the preceding. I heard through some friend, that he had expressed considerable surprise at my there showing the possession of a much larger amount of Geological knowledge, than he had previously credited me with.


My earliest communications with him must have been in the earlier days when he was the Secy of the Geol. Socy, and was working up his South America Geology I examined at his request the microscopical character of some of his specimens of the Pampean deposit; and you will find my results in pp. 77 & 99 of his book. He then began to work at the microscope himself; and I have a letter relating to something to which I was helping him paistered in Mr Cb Autograph book. I will have it copied if you wish; but I scarcely think you would care for it. I remember his paying me a visit at Stoke Newington (where I first settled when I came up to Town), to learn some particulars of microscopic manipulation. This must have been about 1846, when he was beginning to work at the Cirripeds.

I am about to publish in the "Modern Reviews" an Address which I gave recently at Sion College on the general subject of the relation of the doctrine of Evolution to [illeg] with a notice of your Father's earlier life. This address had been arranged for some months before his death; and I gave it very much as it had been previously planned. The whole, I fear, cannot appear in the next no; but the Editor is desirous of giving the first place to what relates to him personally.

I need not say that I shall be very glad to have these letters back as soon as you have had them copied; as they are very precious to my family as well as to myself.

Believe me

Yours faithfully

W B Carpenter

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