Weekly Auctions of Exceptional Items
0 selections
Log In
0 selections
lots of lots
Lot 0008
Charles Darwin (1809-1882).

Autograph letter signed (‘Ch. Darwin’) to [Katherine] Lyell, Down, Beckenham, Kent, 16 February 1882.

3 pages, 202 x 125mm, bifolium, headed notepaper.

Darwin writes to the botanist Katharine Lyell about her publication of the Life, Letters and Journals of her brother-in-law Sir Charles Lyell – Darwin’s friend, colleague and mentor. He informs her that: 'In the last number of Kosmos there is a short, but worthy article on your Life of Lyell. The Journal is devoted to Evolution, so it is chiefly to this subject to which the review is directed, but the unknown Reviewer evidently appreciated fully Lyell’s lofty position, & the intent of your book. He hopes that a German Translation may appear. If you cannot easily see a copy & if you care to read the short review, I can lend you the number. I was quite sorry when we came to the end of your book, & sh[oul]d have liked a good deal more’. Yet, promising candour, he continues: ‘Naturally I still think that a good many letters might have been omitted with advantage’, but concludes that Lyell’s admirers will be most grateful for the publication.

The botanist Katharine Murray Lyell (1817-1915) forged her reputation as a specialist in the study of ferns, travelling to India with her husband Henry – brother of Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875) – to collect specimens, and publishing on their geographical distribution in 1870. Her Life, letters and journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. appeared in 1881 – the anonymous reviewer of the edition mentioned by Darwin in the present letter had evidently concentrated on her brother-in-law’s contribution to the fierce debate around evolution. Charles Lyell has one of the earliest supporters of On the Origin of Species, despite his well-publicised struggle to square Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, and evolution, with his religious faith.

Not published in the Darwin Correspondence Project.

Buyer's Premium

  • 25% up to £225,000.00
  • 20% up to £3,000,000.00
  • 13.5% above £3,000,000.00

On a biography of Charles Lyell

Estimate £5,000 - £8,000May 23, 2019
Lot Closed
You can no longer bid on this lot.
New York, NY, USA
Auction Curated By:
Sophie Hopkins
Associate Director, Specialist, Manuscripts & Archives