RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1904. [Letter to Annie Dowie, regarding Chambers and Vestiges, 1871]. In Eliza Chambers Priestley, The story of a lifetime, by Lady Priestley. London: Gilbert & Rivington, p. 16.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe and Christine Chua. RN2

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here. Chambers, Robert. 1884. Vestiges of the natural history of creation. With an introduction relating to the authorship of the work by Alexander Ireland. 12th ed. London, Edinburgh: Chambers.

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[…] Turning to the right, I can see among the row of my father's books one which he never avowed throughout his life, "The Vestiges of Creation." When published in the early forties it fell like a bomb among the Darwinites, who were digging deep at the foundations of "The Origin of Species," and unhappily did not enjoy the same generosity which so

[page] 16

distinguished the Scottish authors just named. Many years later Professor Huxley told me at his own table how he had attacked it with all the impetuosity of youth, and had charged the unknown author with plagiarizing Lamarck. Now, peeping into the tenth edition of the Vestiges, I see in the preface the reply to this, for the author explains that when he wrote the book he had only heard of Lamarck's hypothesis, but it seemed to him to proceed in a vicious circle, and he dismissed it as totally inadequate to account for the existence of animated species. His attention was first attracted to the idea, he explains, on becoming acquainted with the Laplacian hypothesis of the Solar system.

Darwin also, when youth had fled and carried bitterness away with it, wrote to my sister Mrs. Dowie the following letter soon after my father's death, but before the secret of authorship was officially announced:—

March 24th, 1871.

Down, Beckenham, Kent,


I beg leave to thank you very sincerely for your extremely kind communication through Sir J. Lubbock. It has been highly gratifying to me to hear that so distinguished a man as Dr. Chambers felt an interest about my book during the last hours of his valuable life. I have always felt a most sincere respect for your father, and his society, the few times I enjoyed it, was most pleasant to me. Several years ago I perceived that I had not done full justice to a scientific work which I believed and still believe he was intimately connected with, and

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few things have struck me with more admiration than the perfect temper and liberality with which he treated my conduct. I have the honour to remain, Madam, Your obliged and obedient servant,


It is true that in the fourth edition of "The Origin of Species," 1868, he makes the following remarks regarding The Vestiges:—

"The work from its powerful and brilliant style, though displaying in the earlier editions little accurate knowledge and a great want of scientific caution, immediately had a very wide circulation. In my opinion it had done excellent service in this country in calling attention to the subject, in removing prejudice, and in thus preparing the ground for the reception of analogous views.'

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

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