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

§ 55. The Origin of Species

The publication of The Origin of Species naturally aroused immense opposition and heated controversy. But Darwin was no controversialist. Patient and entirely unresponsive under abuse, he was, at the same time, eager for criticism (knowing that it might advance the truth). His views offended, not only old-fashioned naturalists, but theologians and clerics. Huxley wrote shortly after Darwin’s death,

  • None have fought better, and none have been more fortunate, than Charles Darwin. He found a great truth trodden underfoot, reviled by bigots, and ridiculed by all the world; he lived long enough to see it, chiefly by his own efforts, irrefragably established in science, inseparably incorporated with the common thoughts of men, and only hated and feared by those who would revile, but dare not. What shall a man desire more than this?
  • Darwin, also, was fortunate in his supporters, though some of the leading biologists of the time—conspicuous among them was Owen—rejected the new doctrine. In Hooker, on the botanical side, in Huxley, on the zoological side, and in Lyell, on the geological side, he found three of the ablest intellects of his country and of his century as champions. None of these agreed on all points with his leader; but all three gave a more than general adherence to his principles and a more than generous aid in promulgating his doctrine. Lyell was an older man, and his Principles of Geology had long been a classic. This book inspired students destined to become leaders in the revolution of thought which was taking place in the last half of the nineteenth century. One of these writes:

  • Were I to assert that if the Principles of Geology had not been written, we should never have had the Origin of Species, I think I should not be going too far: at all events, I can safely assert, from several conversations I had with Darwin, that he would have most unhesitatingly agreed in that opinion.