The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VIII. The Literature of Science

§ 45. Lyell

The interest of (Sir) Charles Lyell in geology was aroused by the fascinating lectures of Buckland. He was trained, at first, for the law; but his legal studies were arrested by a weakness in his eyes, which, for a considerable time, prevented any continuous reading, and troubled him more or less throughout life. But this enforced rest enabled him to devote himself to geology, and, in 1824, he began systematic travel for that purpose. About 1827, his future book—The Principles of Geology—began to take a definite shape in his mind. In the spring of that year, with the Murchisons, he visited Auvergne, passing to the south of France and to the north of Italy as far as the Vicentine and the Euganean hills. Thence he went to Naples and Sicily, studying not only their volcanic districts, but, also, the tertiary fossils of other parts of Italy, returning to London after an absence of more than three-quarters of a year. The first volume of The Principles appeared in 1831, while he was travelling in France and studying the extinct volcanoes of Olot in Spain, the second volume early in 1832 and the third in 1833. At a later date, the book was divided, the first two volumes retaining the title Principles, and the third appearing, in 1838, as The Elements of Geology. During these years, he continued his studies of European geology, extending his journeys to Denmark and Scandinavia. In 1841, he began a twelvemonth’s journey in Canada and North America, an account of which is given in Travels in North America, published early in 1845. The same year he revisited that continent, making a much more extended journey in the United States, which is recounted in his Second Visit etc., published in 1849. He returned, for shorter visits, in 1852 and 1853, and, in 1854, went to Madeira and the Canary islands. During the years between 1842 and 1859, he continued his work in various parts of Europe, and, in the latter year, appeared Darwin’s Origin of Species. The study of this book completed Lyell’s conversion to the views expressed by Darwin, and he also investigated the evidence in favour of the early existence of man.

The results of these studies, with an account of the glacial epoch, form the “trilogy” entitled The Antiquity of Man, which appeared early in 1863. After this time, his journeys, necessarily, became shorter, though his interest in geology continued to be as keen as ever, till, after a period of increasing weakness, he died in February, 1873.