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Debunking Darwin Myths

In the March 14 Times Literary Supplement, Jim Endersby reviewed the Penn Press reissue of The Origin of Species: A Variorum Text while debunking myths about Charles Darwin’s work and its impact.

The Correspondence, together with Morse Peckham’s Variorum Edition of the Origin (which was first published in 1959 and has now been reissued by Pennsylvania Press after a long absence), also destroy the myth of
Darwin’s instant impact, since they reveal that the Origin was still a work in progress long after its first appearance. Darwin produced six editions during his lifetime and, as Peckham demonstrated nearly fifty years ago, he tinkered constantly with the text, adding and amending, revising and rethinking and, above all, responding to criticism. (Revealingly, Darwin’s sentence about consoling ourselves with the thought that death is prompt, while the “happy survive and multiply”, appears unchanged in every edition.)

The complete review is available at the Times Online website.