Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Darwin letter is found at museum

Darwin's letter
The letter was verified by the Darwin Correspondence Project

A letter written and signed by Charles Darwin has been discovered in the archives of a Suffolk museum.

The letter, dated 29 August 1872 and found at Ipswich museum last week, is in reply to one written by FW Harmer, an amateur geologist from Norwich.

Darwin, a prolific letter writer, apologises that Mr Harmer has become "involved in a troublesome controversy" over an article on natural selection.

Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago this month.

He has long been connected to Ipswich museum as his friend and tutor at Cambridge, John Stevens Henslow, was responsible for bringing most of the natural history collection to the building.

The letter was found folded up but in good condition by documentation officer Joan Llyall.

Mr Lyon can hardly have the disposition of a gentleman, for in one place he states that I speak the truth solely because I should be found out if I lied
Charles Darwin

It has been verified by the Darwin Correspondence Project.

FW Harmer, author of The Pilocene Mollusca of Great Britain, had entered into a newspaper debate with WP Lyon, author of Homo versus Darwin, in which he claims Darwin said "natural selection is a kind of god that never slumbers nor sleeps".

Mr Harmer did not believe Darwin had made the statement and wrote to Darwin to that effect.

In the museum's letter, Darwin is annoyed that Mr Lyon had put the invented statement in inverted comments and questions Mr Lyon's standing as a gentleman.

The letter is currently on display at the museum.


A member of staff uncovered a reference to a Darwin letter in the museum's catalogue

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