delay, publishing, publication, charles darwin, species theory
[delay, publishing, publication, charles darwin]
darwin, origin of species, natural selection, considerable step in science,

Home > Charles Darwin index > Did Charles Darwin delay publication of his - On the Origin of Species?

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Did Charles Darwin delay the publication of his
On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection?

A species theory which he viewed to be possibly a "considerable step in science"!!!

Down, July 5, 1844.

I have just finished my sketch of my species theory. If, as I believe, my theory in time be accepted even by one competent judge, it will be a considerable step in science.

I therefore write this in case of my sudden death, as my most solemn and last request, which I am sure you will consider the same as if legally entered in my will, that you will devote 400 pounds to its publication, and further, will yourself, or through Hensleigh (Mr. H. Wedgwood.), take trouble in promoting it. I wish that my sketch be given to some competent person, with this sum to induce him to take trouble in its improvement and enlargement. I give to him all my books on Natural History, which are either scored or have references at the end to the pages, begging him carefully to look over and consider such passages as actually bearing, or by possibility bearing, on this subject. I wish you to make a list of all such books as some temptation to an editor. I also request that you will hand over [to] him all those scraps roughly divided in eight or ten brown paper portfolios. The scraps, with copied quotations from various works, are those which may aid my editor. I also request that you, or some amanuensis, will aid in deciphering any of the scraps which the editor may think possibly of use. I leave to the editor's judgment whether to interpolate these facts in the text, or as notes, or under appendices. As the looking over the references and scraps will be a long labour, and as the CORRECTING and enlarging and altering my sketch will also take considerable time, I leave this sum of 400 pounds as some remuneration, and any profits from the work. I consider that for this the editor is bound to get the sketch published either at a publisher's or his own risk. Many of the scrap in the portfolios contains mere rude suggestions and early views, now useless, and many of the facts will probably turn out as having no bearing on my theory.

With respect to editors, Mr. Lyell would be the best if he would undertake it; I believe he would find the work pleasant, and he would learn some facts new to him. As the editor must be a geologist as well as a naturalist, the next best editor would be Professor Forbes of London. The next best (and quite best in many respects) would be Professor Henslow. Dr. Hooker would be VERY good. The next, Mr. Strickland. (After Mr. Strickland's name comes the following sentence, which has been erased but remained legible. "Professor Owen would be very good; but I presume he would not undertake such a work." If none of these would undertake it, I would request you to consult with Mr. Lyell, or some other capable man for some editor, a geologist and naturalist. Should one other hundred pounds make the difference of procuring a good editor, request earnestly that you will raise 500 pounds.

My remaining collections in Natural History may be given to any one or any museum where it would be accepted...

There seems to be some insistence on Charles Darwin's part, in this heartfelt letter to his wife,
"I therefore write this in case of my sudden death, as my most solemn and last request, which I am sure you will consider the same as if legally entered in my will,"
that his "Species Theory" should be published "in case of my sudden death" - (and Darwin was not a well man having contracted a recurring seriously debilitating fever on his Beagle voyage).

Nevertheless this sketch of his Species Theory seems to have remained wrapped in paper and string under the stairs of Charles Darwin's home in the Kentish countryside for some fourteen years subsequently before being returned to in 1858 when Darwin had felt it necessary to prepare a work for publication.

This necessity being related to another scientific thinker, Alfred Russel Wallace, having independently developed a Theory of Evolution that was in essence strikingly similar to Darwin's own!

Thus it was only in 1859 - after some fifteen years of delay - that a print run of some 1250 copies of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was made available to the booktrade!!!

Darwin may have been reluctant to offend religious sensibilities - (including those of his dear wife) - he was also committed to giving fullest possible proofs for his conjectures, some considerations of any potential adverse affects on the social respectability of his family may also have contributed to the delay.

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Did Charles Darwin delay the publication of his
On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection?