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Title: Charles Lyell and Modern Geology
Author: Bonney, Thomas George
Language: English
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 The Century Science Series.


        *       *       *       *       *

 =John Dalton and the Rise of Modern Chemistry.=

 =Major Rennell, F.R.S., and the Rise of English Geography.=
 By CLEMENTS R. MARKHAM, C.B., F.R.S., President of the Royal
     Geographical Society.

 =Justus von Liebig: his Life and Work (1803-1873).=
 By W. A. SHENSTONE, F.I.C., Lecturer on Chemistry in
     Clifton College.

 =The Herschels and Modern Astronomy.=
 By AGNES M. CLERKE, Author of "A Popular History
    of Astronomy during the 19th Century," &c.

 =Charles Lyell and Modern Geology.=
 By Rev. Professor T. G. BONNEY, F.R.S.

 =Clerk Maxwell and Modern Physics.=
 By R. T. GLAZEBROOK, F.R.S., Fellow of Trinity College,

 _In Preparation._

 =Michael Faraday: his Life and Work.=

 =Humphry Davy.=
 By T. E. THORPE, F.R.S., Principal Chemist of the
    Government Laboratories.

 =Pasteur: his Life and Work.=
 By M. ARMAND RUFFER, M.D., Director of the British
    Institute of Preventive Medicine.

 =Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species.=
 By EDWARD B. POULTON, M.A., F.R.S., Hope Professor
    of Zoology in the University of Oxford.

 =Hermann von Helmholtz.=
 By A. W. RÜCKER, F.R.S., Professor of Physics in the
    Royal College of Science, London.

 CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED, _London; Paris & Melbourne_

[Illustration: HW: Charles Lyell]






 D.SC., LL.D., F.R.S., ETC.

 New York


The life of Charles Lyell is singularly free from "moving accidents by
flood and field." Though he travelled much, he never, so far as can be
ascertained, was in danger of life or limb, of brigand or beast. At home
his career was not hampered by serious difficulties or blocked by
formidable obstacles; not a few circumstances were distinctly favourable
to success. Thus his biography cannot offer the reader either the
excitement of adventure, or the interest of an unwearied struggle with
adverse conditions. But for all that, as it seems to me, it can teach a
lesson of no little value. Lyell, while still a young man, determined
that he would endeavour to put geology--then only beginning to rank as a
science--on a more sound and philosophical basis. To accomplish this
purpose, he spared no labour, grudged no expenditure, shrank from no
fatigue. For years he was training himself by observation and travel; he
was studiously aiming at precision of thought and expression, till "The
Principles of Geology" had been completed and published. But even then,
though he might have counted his work done, he spared no pains to make
it better, and went on at the task of improvement till the close of his
long life.

My chief aim, in writing this little volume, has been to bring out this
lesson as strongly and as clearly as possible. I have striven to show
how Charles Lyell studied, how he worked, how he accumulated
observations, how each journey had its definite purposes. Accordingly, I
have often given his words in preference to any phrases of my own, and
have quoted freely from his letters, diaries, and books, because I
wished to show exactly how things presented themselves to his eyes, and
how ideas were maturing in his mind. Regarded in this light, Lyell's
life becomes an apologue, setting forth the beneficial results of
concentrating the whole energy on one definite object, and the moral
grandeur of a calm, judicial, truth-seeking spirit.

In writing the following pages I have, of course, mainly drawn upon the
"Life, Letters, and Journals," edited by Mrs. Lyell; but I have also
made use of his books, especially the "Principles of Geology," and the
two tours in North America. I am under occasional obligations to the
excellent life, contributed by Professor G. A. J. Cole to the
"Dictionary of National Biography," and have to thank my friend
Professor J. W. Judd for some important details which he had learnt
through his intimacy with the veteran geologist. He also kindly lent the
engraving (executed in America from a daguerreotype) which has been
copied for the frontispiece of this volume.



   CHAPTER                                          PAGE

    I.--CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOLDAYS                       9

   II.--UNDERGRADUATE DAYS                            19

  III.--THE GROWTH OF A PURPOSE                       27


            "PRINCIPLES OF GEOLOGY"                   73

   VI.--EIGHT YEARS OF QUIET PROGRESS                100



   IX.--STEADY PROGRESS                              168

    X.--THE ANTIQUITY OF MAN                         184

   XI.--THE EVENING OF LIFE                          189

  XII.--SUMMARY                                      206




Caledonia, stern and wild, may be called "meet nurse" of geologists as
well as of poets. Among the most remarkable of the former is Charles
Lyell, who was born in Forfarshire on November 14th, 1797, at Kinnordy,
the family mansion. His father, who also bore the name of Charles,[1]
was both a lover of natural history and a man of high culture. He took
an interest at one time in entomology, but abandoned this for botany,
devoting himself more especially to the study of the cryptogams. Of
these he discovered several new species, besides some other plants
previously unknown in the British flora, and he contributed the article
on Lichens to Smith's "English Botany." More than one species was named
after him, as well as a genus of mosses, _Lyellia_, which is chiefly
found in the Himalayas. Later in his life, science, on the whole, was
supplanted by literature, and he became engrossed in the study of the
works of Dante, of some of whose poems[2] he published translations and
notes. Thus the geologist and author is an instance of "hereditary

Charles was the eldest of a family of ten--three sons and seven
daughters, all of whom grew up. Their mother was English, the daughter
of Thomas Smith, of Maker Hall in Yorkshire, "a woman of strong sense
and tender anxiety for her children's welfare." "The front of heaven,"
as Lyell has written in a fragment of autobiography, was not "full of
fiery shapes at his nativity," but the season was so exceptionally warm
that his mother's bedroom-window was kept open all the night--an
appropriate birth-omen for the geologist, who had a firmer faith than
some of his successors in the value of work in the open air. He has put
on record only two characteristics of his infancy, and as these can
hardly be personal recollections, we may assume them to have been
sufficiently marked to impress others. One if not both was wholly
physical. He was very late in cutting his teeth, not a single one having
appeared in the first twelvemonth, and the hardness of his infant gums
caused an old wife to prognosticate that he would be edentulous. Also,
his lungs were so vigorous and so habitually exercised that he was
pronounced "the loudest and most indefatigable squaller of all the brats
of Angus."

The geologist who so emphatically affirmed the necessity of travel,
early became an unconscious practiser of his own precept. When he was
three months old his parents went from Kinnordy to Inveraray, whence
they journeyed to the south of England, as far as Ilfracombe. From this
place they removed to Weymouth and thence to Southampton. More than a
year must have been thus spent, for their second child--also a son--was
born at the last-named town. Mr. Lyell, the father, now took a lease of
Bartley Lodge, on the New Forest--some half-dozen miles west of
Southampton, where the family lived for twenty-eight years. His mother
and sisters also left Kinnordy, and rented a house in Southampton. Their
frequent excursions to Bartley Lodge, as Lyell observes, were always
welcome to the children, for they never came empty-handed.

Kinnordy, however, was visited from time to time in the summer, and on
one of these occasions, when Charles was in his fifth year, some of the
family had a narrow escape. They were about a stage and a half from
Edinburgh; the parents and the two boys in one carriage; two nursemaids,
the cook, and the two youngest children, sisters, in a chaise behind.
The horses of this took fright on a narrow part of the road and upset
the carriage over a very steep slope. Fortunately all escaped unhurt,
except one of the maids, whose arm was cut by the splintered glass. The
parents ran to the rescue. "Meanwhile, Tom and I were left in the
carriage. We thought it fine pastime, and I am accused of having
prompted Tom to assist in plundering the pockets of the carriage of all
the buns and other eatables, which we demolished with great speed for
fear of interruption."[3] This adventure, however, was not quite his
earliest reminiscence; for that was learning the alphabet when he was
about three years old.

Charles was kept at home till he had nearly completed his eighth year,
when he was sent with his brother Tom to a boarding-school at Ringwood.
The master was the Rev. R. S. Davies; the lads were some fifty in
number, the Lyells being about the youngest. They seem, however, not to
have been ill-treated, though their companions were rather a rough lot,
and they were petted by the schoolmaster's daughter. The most
sensational incident of his stay at Ringwood was a miniature "town and
gown" row, a set fight between the lads of the place and of the school,
from which, however, the Lyells were excluded as too young to share in
the joys and the perils of war. But the fray was brought to a rather
premature conclusion by the joint intervention of foreign powers--the
masters of the school and the tradesmen of the town. In those days
smuggling was rife on the south coast, and acting the part of revenue
officers and contrabandists was a favourite school game; doubtless the
more popular because it afforded a legitimate pretext for something like
a fight. The fear of a French invasion also kept this part of England on
the _qui vive_, and Lyell well remembered the excitement caused by a
false alarm that the enemy had landed. He further recollected the
mingled joy and sorrow which were caused by the victory of Trafalgar and
the death of Nelson.

The brothers remained at Ringwood only for about two years, for neither
the society nor the instruction could be called first-class; and they
were sent, after a rather long holiday at home, to another school of
about the same size, but much higher character, in Salisbury. The
master, Dr. Radcliffe, an Oxford man, was a good classical scholar, and
his pupils came from the best families in that part of England. In one
respect, the young Lyells found it a change for the worse. At Ringwood
they had an ample playground, close to which was the Avon, gliding clear
and cool to the sea, a delightful place for a bathe. In a few minutes'
walk from the town they were among pleasant lanes; in a short time they
could reach the border of the New Forest. But at Salisbury the school
was in the heart of the town, its playground a small yard surrounded by
walls, and, as he says, "we only walked out twice or three times in a
week, when it did not rain, and were obliged to keep in ranks along the
endless streets and dusty roads of the suburbs of a city. It seemed a
kind of prison by comparison, especially to me, accustomed to liberty in
such a wild place as the New Forest." One can sympathise with his
feelings, for a procession of schoolboys, walking two and two along the
streets of a town, is a dreary spectacle.

But an occasional holiday brought some comfort, for then they were sent
on a longer excursion. The favourite one was to the curious earthworks
of Old Sarum, then in its glory as a "rotten borough," one alehouse,
with its tea-gardens attached, sending two members to Parliament. On
these excursions more liberty seems to have been permitted. The boys
broke up the large flints that lay all about the ground, to find in them
cavities lined with chalcedony or drusy crystals of quartz. But the
chief interest centred around a mysterious excavation in the earthwork,
"a deep, long subterranean tunnel, said to have been used by the
garrison to get water from a river in the plain below." To this all
new-comers were taken to listen to the tale of its enormous depth and
subterranean pool. Then, when duly overawed, they felt their hats fly
off their heads and saw them rolling out of sight down the tunnel. An
interval followed of blank dismay, embittered, no doubt, by dismal
anticipations of what would probably happen when they got back to the
school-house. Then one of the older boys volunteered to act the sybil
and lead the way to the nether world. Of course they "regained their
felt and felt what they regained"--literally, for the hole was dark
enough, though we may set down the "many hundred yards" (which Lyell
says that he descended before he recovered his lost hat) as an instance
of the permanent effect of a boyish illusion on even a scientific mind.

But the restrictions of Salisbury made the liberty of the New Forest yet
more dear. Bartley was an ideal home for boys. It was surrounded by
meadows and park-like timber. A two-mile walk brought the lads to Rufus
Stone, and on the wilder parts of the Forest. There they could ramble
over undulating moors, covered with heath and fern, diversified by
marshy tracts, sweet with bog-myrtle, or by patches of furze, golden in
season with flowers; or they could wander beneath the shadows of its
great woods of oak and beech, over the rustling leaves, among the
flickering lights and shadows, winding here and there among tufts of
holly scrub, always led on by the hope of some novelty--a rare insect
fluttering by, a lizard or a snake gliding into the fern, strange birds
circling in the air, a pheasant or even a woodcock springing up almost
under the feet. The rabbits scampered to their holes among the furze; a
fox now and again stole silently away to cover, or a stag--for the deer
had not yet been destroyed--was espied among the tall brake. Those, too,
it must be remembered, were the days when boys got their holidays in the
prime of the summer, at the season of haymaking and of ripe
strawberries. They were not kept stewing in hot school-rooms all through
July, until the flowers are nearly over and the bright green of the
foliage is dulled, until the romance of the summer's youth has given
place to the dulness of its middle age. In these days it is our pleasure
to do the right thing in the wrong place--a truly national
characteristic. We all--young and old--toil through the heat and the
long days, and take holiday when the autumn is drawing nigh and Nature
writes "Ichabod" on the beauty of the waning year.

At Salisbury, Lyell had two new experiences--the sorrows of the Latin
Grammar and the joys of a bolster-fight. But his health was not good; a
severe attack of measles in the first year was followed in the second by
a general "breakdown," with symptoms of weakness of the lungs. So he was
taken home for three months to recruit. This was at first a welcome
change from the restrictions of Salisbury; but, as his lessons
necessarily were light, he began to mope for want of occupation; for, as
he says, "I was always most exceedingly miserable if unemployed, though
I had an excessive aversion to work unless forced to it." So he began to
collect insects--a pursuit which, as he remarks, exactly suited him, for
it was rather desultory, gave employment to both mind and body, and
gratified the "collecting" instinct, which is strong in most boys. He
began with the lepidoptera, but before long took an interest in other
insects, especially the aquatic. Fortunately his father had been for a
time a collector, and possessed some good books on entomology, from the
pictures in which Charles named his captures. This was, of course, an
unscientific method, but it taught him to recognise the species and to
know their habits. There are few better localities for lepidoptera, as
every collector knows, than the New Forest, and some of the schoolboy's
"finds" afterwards proved welcome to so well known an entomologist as
Curtis. But when Charles returned to school he had to lay aside, for a
season, the new hobby; for in those days a schoolboy's interest in
natural history did not extend beyond birds'-nesting, and his little
world was not less, perhaps even more frank and demonstrative than now,
in its criticism of any innovation or peculiarity on the part of one of
its members.

The school at Salisbury appears to have been a preparatory one, so
before very long another had to be sought. Mr. Lyell wished to send his
two boys to Winchester, but found to his disappointment that there would
not be a vacancy for a couple of years; so after instructing them at
home for six months, he contented himself with the Grammar School at
Midhurst, in Sussex, at the head of which was one Dr. Bayley, formerly
an under-master at Winchester. Charles, now in his thirteenth year,
found this, at first, a great change. The school contained about seventy
boys, big as well as little, and its general system resembled that of
one of the great public schools. He remarks of this period of his life:
"Whatever some may say or sing of the happy recollections of their
schooldays, I believe the generality, if they told the truth, would not
like to have them over again, or would consider them as less happy than
those which follow." He was not the kind of boy to find the life of a
public school very congenial. Evidently he was a quietly-disposed lad,
caring more for a country ramble than for games; perhaps a little
old-fashioned in his ways; not pugnacious, but preferring a quiet life
to the trouble of self-assertion. So, in his second half-year, when he
was left to shift entirely for himself, his life was "not a happy one,"
for a good deal of the primeval savage lingers in the boys of a
civilised race. It required, as he said, a good deal to work him up to
the point of defending his independence; thus he was deemed incapable of
resistance and was plagued accordingly. But at last he turned upon a
tormentor, and a fight was the result. It was of Homeric proportions,
for it lasted two days, during five or six hours on each, the combatants
being pretty evenly matched; for though Lyell's adversary was rather the
smaller and weaker, he knew better how to use his fists. Strength at the
end prevailed over science, though both parties were about equally
damaged. The vanquished pugilist was put to bed, being sorely bruised in
the visible parts. Lyell, whose hurts were mostly hidden, made light of
them, by the advice of friends, but he owns that he ached in every bone
for a week, and was black and blue all over his body. Still he had not
fought in vain, for, though the combat won him little honour, it
delivered him from sundry tormentors.

The educational system of the school stimulated his ambition to rise in
the classes. "By this feeling," he says, "much of my natural antipathy
to work, and extreme absence of mind, was conquered in a great measure,
and I acquired habits of attention which, however, were very painful to
me, and only sustained when I had an object in view." There was an
annual speech-day, and Charles, on the first occasion, obtained a prize
for his performance. "Every year afterwards," he continues, "I received
invariably a prize for speaking, until high enough to carry off the
prizes for Latin and English original composition. My inventive talents
were not quick, but to have any is so rare a qualification that it is
sure to obtain a boy at our great schools (and afterwards as an author)
some distinction." Evidently he gave proofs of originality beyond his
fellows; since he won a prize for English verse, though he had written
in the metre of the "Lady of the Lake" instead of the ordinary
ten-syllabic rhyme. On another occasion he commemorated, in his weekly
Latin copy, the destruction of the rats in a neighbouring pond, writing
in mock heroics, after the style of Homer's battle of the frogs and

The school, like all other collections of boys, had its epidemic
hobbies. The game of draughts, coupled unfortunately with gambling on a
small scale, was followed by chess, and that by music. To each of these
Charles was more or less a victim, and his progress up the school was
not thereby accelerated. Birds'-nesting also had a turn in its season.
His love for natural history made him so keen in this pursuit that he
became an expert climber of trees. But his schooldays on the whole were
uneventful, and he went to Oxford at a rather early age, his brother Tom
having already left Midhurst in order to enter the Navy.


[1] Born 1767, died 1849 (also son of a Charles Lyell); educated at St.
Andrew's and at St. Peter's College, Cambridge, where he proceeded to
the degree of B.A. in 1791 and M.A. in 1794.

[2] In 1835, the _Canzoniere_, including the _Vita Nuova and Convito_; a
second edition was published in 1842; in 1845 a translation of the
Lyrical Poems of Dante.

[3] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 3.



Lyell matriculated at Exeter College, and appears to have begun
residence in January, 1816--that is, soon after completing his
eighteenth year. At Oxford, though not a "hard reader," he was evidently
far from idle, and wrote for some of the University prizes, though
without success. Several of his letters to his father have been
preserved. In these he talks about his studies, mathematical and
classical; criticises Coleridge's "Christabel," and praises Kirke
White's poetry; describes the fritillaries blossoming in the
Christchurch meadows, and refers occasionally to political matters. The
letters are well expressed, and indicate a thoughtful and observant
mind. While yet a schoolboy he had stumbled upon a copy of Bakewell's
"Geology" in his father's library, which had so far awakened his
interest that in the earlier part of his residence at Oxford he attended
a course of Professor Buckland's lectures, and took careful notes. The
new study is briefly mentioned in a letter, dated July 20th, 1817. This
is written from Yarmouth, where he is visiting Mr. Dawson Turner, the
well-known antiquarian and botanist. He states that, on his way through
London, he went to see the elephant at Exeter Change, Bullock's Museum,
and Francillon's collection of insects. At Norwich also he saw more
insects, the cathedral, and some chalk pits, in which he found an
"immense number of belemnites, echinites, and bivalves." He was also
greatly interested by the fossils in Dr. Arnold's collection at
Yarmouth, particularly by the "alcyonia" found in flints.[4] A few days
later he again dwells on geology, and speculates shrewdly on the
formation of the lowland around Yarmouth and the ancient course of the
river. In one paragraph a germ of the future "Principles" may be
detected. It runs thus:

      "Dr. Arnold and I examined yesterday the pit which is dug
      out for the foundation of the Nelson monument, and found
      that the first bed of shingle is eight feet down. Now this
      was the last stratum brought by the sea; all since was
      driven up by wind and kept there by the 'Rest-harrow' and
      other plants. It is mere sand. Therefore, thirty-five years
      ago the Deens were nearly as low as the last stratum left by
      the sea; and as the wind would naturally have begun adding
      from the very first, it is clear that within fifty years the
      sea flowed over that part. This, even Mr. T. allows, is a
      strong argument in favour of the recency of the changes. Dr.
      Arnold surprised me by telling me that he thought that the
      Straits of Dover were formerly joined, and that the great
      current and tides of the North Sea being held back, the sea
      flowed higher over these parts than now. If he had thought a
      little more he would have found no necessity for all this,
      for all those towns on this eastern coast, which have no
      river god to stand their friend, have necessarily been
      losing in the same proportion as Yarmouth gains--viz.
      Cromer, Pakefield, Dunwich, Aldborough, etc., etc. With
      Dunwich I believe it is _Fuit Ilium_."[5]

Evidently Lyell by this time had become deeply interested in geology,
for his journal contains several notes made on the road from London to
Kinnordy, and records, during his stay there, not only the capture of
insects, but also visits to quarries, and the discovery of crystallised
sulphate of barytes at Kirriemuir and elsewhere.

Towards the end of his first long vacation he travelled, in company with
two friends of his own age, from Forfarshire across by Loch Tay,
Tyndrum, and Loch Awe, to the western coast at Oban, whence they visited
Staffa and Iona. With the caves in the former island he was greatly
impressed; and he noted the columns of basalt, which, he said, were
"pentagonal" in form, quite different from the "four-square" jointing of
the red granite at the south-west end of Mull. With the ruins of Iona he
was a little disappointed, for he wrote in his diary that "they are but
poor after all." The wonders of Fingal's Cave appealed to his poetical
as well as to his geological instincts, for in October, after his return
to Oxford, he sent to his father some stanzas on this subject which are
not without a certain merit. But the covering letter was mostly devoted
to geology.

The next year, 1818, marked an important step in his education as a
geologist, for he accompanied his father, mother, and two eldest sisters
on a Continental tour. Starting early in June, they drove in a
ramshackle carriage, which frequently broke down, from Calais to Paris,
along much the same route as the railway now takes; they visited the
sights of the capital, not forgetting either the artistic treasures of
the Louvre or the collections of the Jardin des Plantes, particularly
the fossils of the "Paris basin." Thence they journeyed by Fontainebleau
and Auxerre to Dôle, and he makes careful and shrewd notes on the
geology, for the carriage travelling of those days, though slow, was not
without its advantages--and in crossing the Jura he observes the nodular
flints in a limestone, and the contrast between these mountains and the
Grampians of his native land. As they descended the well-known road
which leads down to Gex in Switzerland, they had the good fortune to
obtain a splendid view of Mont Blanc and the Alps. From Geneva, where he
notes the "most peculiar deep blue colour of the Rhone," they visited
Chamouni by the usual route. At this time the principal glaciers were
advancing rather rapidly. The Glacier des Bossons, he remarks, "has
trodden down the tallest pines with as much ease as an elephant could
the herbage of a meadow. Some trunks are still seen projecting from the
rock of ice, all the heads being embodied in this mass, which shoots out
at the top into tall pyramids and pinnacles of ice, of beautiful shapes
and a very pure white.... It has been pressed on not only through the
forest, but over some cultivated fields, which are utterly lost."[6]

At Chamouni, Lyell made the most of his time, for in three days he
walked up to the Col de Balme, climbed the Brévent, and made his first
glacier expedition, to the well-known oasis among the great fields of
snow and ice which is called the Jardin. Everywhere he notes the
flowers, which at that season were in full beauty; and the insects,
capturing "no less than seven specimens of that rare insect, _Papilio
Apollo_."[7] He feels all the surprise and all the delight which thrills
the entomologist from the British Isles when he first sets foot on the
slopes of the higher Alps, and sees in abundance the rarities of his own
country, besides not a few new species. But Lyell does not neglect the
rocks and minerals, or the red snow, or the wonders of the ice world.
Chamouni, we are told, was then "perfectly inundated with English," for
fifty arrived in one day. The previous year they had numbered one
thousand out of a total of fourteen hundred visitors. Since then, times
and the village have changed.

Returning to Geneva, the party travelled by Lausanne and Neuchâtel to
Bâle, and then followed the picturesque route along the river, by the
tumultuous rapids of Laufenburg and the grand falls of the Rhine, to
Schaffhausen, whence they turned off to Zurich. Here he writes of the
principal inn that it "partook more than any of a fault too common in
Switzerland. They have their stables and cow-houses under the same roof,
and the unavoidable consequences may be conceived, till they can fall in
with a man as able--as 'Hercules to cleanse a stable.'"

From Zurich they crossed the Albis to Zug. The other members of the
party went direct to Lucerne, but Lyell turned aside to visit the spot
where twelve years previously an enormous mass of pudding-stone had come
crashing down from the Rossberg, had destroyed the village of Goldau,
and had converted a great tract of fertile land into a wilderness of
broken rock. He diagnosed correctly the cause of the catastrophe, and
then ascended the Rigi. Here he spent a flea-bitten night at the Kulm
Hotel, but was rewarded by a fine sunset and a yet finer sunrise.

At Lucerne he rejoined his relatives, and they drove together over the
Brünig Pass to Meyringen. From this place they made an excursion to the
Giessbach Falls, and saw the Alpbach in flood after a downpour of rain.
This, like some other Alpine streams, becomes at such times a raging
mass of liquid mud and shattered slate, and Lyell carefully notes the
action of the torrent under these novel circumstances, and its increased
power of transport. Parting from his relatives at the Handeck Falls, he
walked up the valley of the Aar to the Grimsel Hospice, where he passed
the night, and the next morning crossed over into the valley of the
Rhone to the foot of its glacier, and then walked back again to
Meyringen. He remarks that on the way to the Hospice "we passed some
extraordinary large bare planks of granite rock above our track, the
appearance of which I could not account for." This is not surprising,
for he had not yet learnt to read the "handwriting on the wall" of a
vanished glacier. Its interpretation was not to come for another twenty
years, when these would be recognised as perhaps the finest examples of
ice-worn rocks in Switzerland. Lyell was evidently a good pedestrian;
for the very next day he walked from Meyringen over the two Scheideggs
to Lauterbrunnen, ultimately joining his relatives at Thun, from which
town they went on to Berne, where they were so fortunate as to see, from
the well-known terrace, the snowy peaks of the Oberland in all the
beauty of the sunset glow.

Then they journeyed over the pleasant uplands to Vevay, and so by the
shore of the Lake of Geneva and the plain of the Rhone valley to
Martigny, turning aside to visit the salt mines near Bex. They reached
Martigny a little more than seven weeks after the lake, formed in the
valley of the Dranse by the forward movement of the Giétroz Glacier, had
burst its icy barrier, and they saw everywhere the ruins left by the
rush of the flood. The road as they approached Martigny was even then,
in some places, under water; in others it was completely buried beneath
sand. The lower storey of the hotel had been filled with mud and débris,
which was still piled up to the courtyard. Lyell went up the valley of
the Dranse to the scene of the catastrophe, and wrote in his journal an
interesting description of both the effects of the flood and the
remnants of the ice-barrier. Before returning to Martigny he also walked
up to the Hospice on the Great St. Bernard, and then the whole party
crossed by the Simplon Pass into Italy, following the accustomed route
and visiting the usual sights till they arrived at Milan.

The next stage on their tour--and this must have been in those days a
little tedious--brought them to Venice. The Campanile Lyell does not
greatly admire, and of St. Mark's he says rather oddly, "The form is
very cheerful and gay"; but on the whole he is much impressed with the
buildings of Venice, and especially with the pictures. On their return
they went to Bologna, and then crossed the Apennines to Florence.
Everywhere little touches in the diary indicate a mind exceptionally
observant--such as notes on the first firefly, the fields of millet, the
festooned vines seen on the plain, or the peculiar sandy zone on the
northern slopes of the hills. He also mentions that shortly after
crossing the frontier of Tuscany they passed near Coviliajo, "a volcanic
fire" which proceeded from a neighbouring mountain.[8] This they
intended to visit on their return. But at Florence the diary ends
abruptly, for the note-book which contained the rest of it was
unfortunately lost.

We have given this summary of Lyell's journal in some detail, but even
thus it barely suffices to convey an adequate idea of the cultured
tastes, wide interests, and habits of close and accurate observation
disclosed by its pages. It shows, better perhaps than any other
documents, the mental development of the future author of the
"Principles of Geology." Few things, as he journeys, escape his notice;
he describes facts carefully and speculates but little. As he wanders
among the Alpine peaks, he makes no reference to convulsions of the
earth's crust; as he views the ruin wrought by the Dranse, he says
naught of deluges.

The travellers got back to England in September, and at the end of the
Long Vacation Lyell returned to Oxford. There he remained till December,
1819, when he proceeded to the degree of Bachelor of Arts, obtaining a
second class in Classical Honours. Considering that he had never been a
"hard reader," and that he appears to have spent much of his "longs" in
travel--a practice which, though good for general education, counts for
little in the schools--the position indicates that he possessed rather
exceptional abilities and a good amount of scholarship. Though Oxford
had been unable to bestow upon him a systematic training in science, she
had given a definite bias to his inclination, and had fostered and
cultivated a taste for literature which in the future brought forth a
rich fruitage.


[4] Probably they were fossil sponges.

[5] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 43.

[6] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 69.

[7] Now generally called Parnassius Apollo; but very likely he captured
more than one species of the genus.

[8] Probably it was a bituminous shale which had become ignited, as was
the case at Ringstead Bay, Dorset, with the Kimeridge clay. The same
often happens with the "banks" of coal-pits.



Shortly after he had donned the bachelor's hood Lyell came to London,
was entered at Lincoln's Inn, and studied law in the office of a special
pleader. Science was not forsaken, for in March, 1819, he was elected a
Fellow of the Geological Society, and about the same time joined the
Linnean Society. Before very long his legal studies were interrupted.
His eyes became so weak that a complete rest was prescribed;
accordingly, in the autumn of 1820, he accompanied his father on a
journey to Rome. During this but little was done in geology, for the
travellers spent almost all their time in towns.

On his return, so far as can be inferred from the few letters which have
been published, Lyell continued to work at geology, and at Christmas,
1821, was seeking in vain for freshwater fossils in the neighbourhood of
Bartley. In the spring of 1822 he investigated the Sussex coast from
Hastings to Dungeness, and studied the effects of the sea at Winchelsea
and Rye. In the early summer of 1823 he visited the Isle of Wight, and
in a letter to Dr. Mantell suggested that the "blue marl"[9] in Compton
Chine is identical with that at Folkestone, and compared the underlying
strata with those in Sussex, clearing up some confusions, into which
earlier observers had fallen, about the Wealden and Lower Greensand. He
was now evidently beginning to get a firm grip on the subject--a thing
far from easy in days when so little had been ascertained--and this year
he read his first papers to the Geological Society--one, in January,
written in conjunction with Dr. Mantell, "On the Limestone and Clay of
the Ironsand in Sussex"; the other in June, "On the Sections presented
by Some Forfarshire Rivers." Also, on February 7th, he was elected one
of the secretaries of that Society, an office which he retained till
1826. This is a pretty clear proof that he had begun to make his mark
among geologists, and was well esteemed by the leaders of the science.

No sooner had he returned from the Isle of Wight than he started for
Paris, going direct from London to Calais, in the _Earl of Liverpool_
steam packet, "in 11 hours! 120 miles! engines 80 horse-power for 240
tons." In the last letter written to his father before quitting England
he refers to our neighbours across the Channel in the following terms:
"My opinion of the French people is that they are much too corrupt for a
free government and much too enlightened for a despotic one." That was
written full seventy years ago; perhaps even now, were he alive, he
would not be disposed to withdraw the words.

At Paris he was well received by Cuvier, Humboldt, and other men of
science, attended lectures at the Jardin du Roi, and saw a good deal of
society. His letters home often contain interesting references to
matters political and social--such as, for example, the following
remarks which he heard from the mouth of Humboldt: "You cannot conceive
how striking and ludicrous a feature it is in Parisian society at
present that every other man one meets is either minister or
ex-minister. So frequent have been the changes. The instant a new
ministry is formed, a body of sappers and miners is organised. They work
industriously night and day. At last the ministers find that they are
supplanted by the very arts by which a few months ago they raised
themselves to power."[10] Lyell more than once expresses a regret,
which, indeed, was generally felt in scientific circles, that Cuvier had
lost caste by "dabbling so much with the dirty pool of politics"; and
himself works away at geology, studying the fossils of the Paris basin
in the museums, and visiting the most noted sections in order to add to
his own collection and observe the relations of the strata.

He returned to England towards the end of September, and no doubt spent
the next few months in working at geology as far as his eyes, which were
becoming stronger, permitted. The summer of 1824 was devoted to
geological expeditions. In the earlier part he took Mons. Constant
Prévost, one of the leaders of geology in France, to the west of
England. Their special purpose was to examine the Jurassic rocks, but
they extended their tour as far as Cornwall. Afterwards Lyell went to
Scotland, where he was joined by Professor Buckland; and the two
friends, after spending a few days in Ross-shire, went to Brora, and
then returned from Inverness by the Caledonian canal. This gave them the
opportunity of examining the famous "parallel roads" of Glenroy, which
were the more interesting because they had already seen something of
the kind near Cowl, in Ross-shire. Afterwards they went up Glen Spean
and crossed the mountains to Blair Athol, visiting the noted locality in
Glen Tilt, where Hutton made his famous discovery of veins of granite
intrusive in the schists of that valley, and then they made their way to
Edinburgh. Here much work was done, both among collections and in the
field, and it was lightened--as might be expected in a place so
hospitable--by social pleasures and friendly converse with some of the
leading literary and scientific men.

Four years of comparative rest and frequent change of scene had produced
such an improvement in the condition of his eyes that he was able to
resume his study of the law, and was called to the Bar in 1825. For two
years he went on the Western Circuit, having chambers in the Temple and
getting a little business. But, as his correspondence shows, geology
still held the first place in his affections,[11] and papers were read
to the Society from time to time. Among them one of the most important,
though it was not printed in their journal, described a dyke of
serpentine which cut through the Old Red Sandstone on the Kinnordy
estate.[12] But, as is shown by a letter to his sister, written in the
month of November, he had not lost his interest in entomology. At that
time the collectors of insects in Scotland were very few in number, and
the English lepidopterists welcomed the specimens which Lyell and his
sister had caught in Forfarshire. The family had left Bartley Lodge in
the earlier part of the year and had settled in the old home at
Kinnordy. About this time also Lyell began to contribute to the
_Quarterly Review_, writing articles on educational and scientific
topics. This led to a friendship with Lockhart, who became editor at the
end of 1825, and gave him an introduction to Sir Walter Scott. A
Christmas visit to Cambridge introduced him to the social life of that

In the spring of 1827 his ideas as to his future work appear to have
begun to assume a definite form. To Dr. Mantell[13] he writes that he
has been reading Lamarck, and is not convinced by that author's theories
of the development of species, "which would prove that men may have come
from the ourang-outang," though he makes this admission: "After all,
what changes a species may really undergo! How impossible will it be to
distinguish and lay down a line, beyond which some of the so-called
extinct species have never passed into recent ones!" The next sentence
is significant: "That the earth is quite as old as he [Lamarck] supposes
has long been my creed, and I will try before six months are over to
convert the readers of the _Quarterly_ to that heterodox opinion."[14] A
few lines further on come some sentences which indicate that the
leading idea of the "Principles" was even then floating in his mind. "I
am going to write in confirmation of ancient causes having been the same
as modern, and to show that those plants and animals, which we know are
becoming preserved now, are the same as were formerly." Hence, he
proceeds to argue, it is not safe to infer that because the remains of
certain classes of plants or animals are not found in particular strata,
the creatures themselves did not then exist. "You see the drift of my
argument," he continues; "_ergo_, mammalia existed when the oolite and
coal, etc., were formed."[15] The first of these quotations strikes the
keynote of modern geology as opposed to the older notions of the
science; what follows suggests a caution, to which Darwin afterwards
drew more particular attention, though he turned the weapon against
Lyell himself, viz. "the imperfection of the geological record."

A letter to his father, also written in the month of April, shows that,
while he has an immediate purpose of opening fire on MacCulloch,[16] who
had bitterly attacked in the _Westminster Review_ Scrope's book upon
Volcanoes, he has "come to the conclusion that something of a more
scientific character is wanted, for which the pages of a periodical are
not fitted." He might, he says, write an elementary book, like Mrs.
Marcet's "Conversations on Chemistry," but something on a much larger
scale evidently is floating on his mind. In this letter also he
discusses his prospects with his father, who apparently had suggested
that he should cease from going on circuit; and argues that he gains
time by appearing to be engaged in a profession, for "friends have no
mercy on the man who is supposed to have some leisure time, and heap
upon him all kinds of unremunerative duties." Lyell was not devoid of
Scotch shrewdness, and doubtless early learnt that when it is all work
and no pay men see your merits through a magnifying glass, but when it
comes to the question of a reward, they shift the instrument to your

Gradually the plan of the future book assumed a more definite shape in
his mind, as we can see from a letter to Dr. Mantell early in 1828.
About this time also Murchison, with whom he was planning a long visit
to Auvergne,[17] appears among his correspondents. Herschel[18] tells
him how he and Faraday had melted in a furnace "granite into a slag-like
lava"; Hooker[19] begs him to notice the connection between plants and
soils as he travels; his father urges him to take his clerk with him to
act as amanuensis and save his eyes, which might be affected by the
glare of the sun, and to help him generally in collecting specimens and
carrying the barometers. Early in the month of May he started for Paris,
where he met Mr. and Mrs. Murchison, and the party left for Clermont
Ferrand in a "light open carriage, with post horses." As far as Moulins
the roads were bad, but as they receded from Paris and approached the
mountains "the roads and the rates of posting improved, so that we
averaged nine miles an hour, and the change of horses [was] almost as
quick as in England. The politeness of the people has much delighted us,
and they are so intelligent that we get much geology from them."
Clermont Ferrand became their headquarters for some time, and Lyell's
letters to his father are full of notes on the geology of the district,
one of the most interesting in Europe. The great plateau which rises on
the western side of the broad valley of the Allier is studded with cones
and craters--some so fresh that one might imagine their last eruptions
to have happened during the decline of the Roman empire;[20] others in
almost every stage of dissection by the scalpels of nature. Streams of
lava, still rough and clinkery, have poured themselves over the plateau
and have run down the valleys till they have reached the plain of the
Allier, while huge fragments of flows far larger and more ancient have
been carved by the action of rain and rivers into natural bastions, and
now may be seen resting upon stratified marls, crowded with freshwater
shells and other organisms,--the remnants of deposits accumulated in
great lakes, which had been already drained in ages long before man
appeared on the earth.

The two geologists worked hard, for who could be idle in such a country
as this? They often began at six in the morning and rested not till
evening, though the summers are hot in Auvergne, and this one was
exceptionally so. Lyell writes home, "I never did so much real geology
in so many days." Mrs. Murchison also was "very diligent, sketching,
labelling specimens, and making out shells, in which last she is a
valuable assistant." Sometimes they went farther afield, visiting
Pontgibaud and the gorge of the Sioul, where they found a section
previously unnoticed, which gave them a clear proof that a lava-stream
had dammed up the course of a river by flowing down into its valley, and
had converted the part above into a lake. This again had been drained as
the river had carved for itself a new channel, partly in the basalt,
partly in the underlying gneiss. Here, then, was a clear proof that a
river could cut out a path for itself, and that forces still in
operation were sufficient, given time enough, to sculpture the features
of the earth's crust. Notwithstanding the hard work, the outdoor life
suited Lyell, who writes that his "eyes were never in such condition
before." Murchison, too, was generally in good health, but would have
been better, according to his companion, if he had been a little more
abstemious at table and a worse customer to the druggist.

From Clermont Ferrand the travellers moved on to the Cantal, where they
investigated the lacustrine deposits beneath the lava-streams all around
Aurillac. These deposits exhibited on a grand scale the phenomena which
Lyell had already observed on a small one in the marls of the loch at
Kinnordy. Thence they went on through the Ardêche and examined the "pet
volcanoes of the Vivarais," as they had been termed by Scrope. The
Murchisons now began to suffer from the heat, for it was the middle of
July. Nevertheless, they still pushed on southwards, and after visiting
the old towns of Gard and the Bouches du Rhône, went along the Riviera
to Nice, having been delayed for a time at Fréjus, where Murchison had a
sharp attack of malarious fever. It was an exceptionally dry summer, and
the town in consequence was malodorous; so after a short halt, they
moved on to Milan and at last arrived at Padua, working at geology as
they went along, and constantly accumulating new facts. From Padua they
visited Monte Bolca, noted for its fossil fish, the Vicentin, with its
sheets of basalt, and the Euganean Hills, where the "volcanic phenomena
[were] just Auvergne over again." Then the travellers parted, the
Murchisons turning northward to the Tyrol, while Lyell continued on his
journey southward to Naples and Sicily.

Some four months had now been spent, almost without interruption, in
hard work and the daily questioning of Nature. The results had surpassed
even Lyell's anticipations; they had thrown light upon the geological
phenomena of the remote past, and cleared up many difficulties which,
hitherto, had impeded the path of the investigators. On the coast of the
Maritime Alps Lyell had found huge beds of conglomerate, parted one from
another by laminated shales full of fossils, most of which were
identical with creatures still living in the Mediterranean. These masses
attained a thickness of 800 feet, and were displayed in the sides of a
valley fifteen miles in length. They supplied a case parallel with that
of the conglomerates and sandstones of Angus, and indicated that no
extraordinary conditions--no deluges or earth shatterings--had been
needed in order to form them. If the torrents from the Maritime Alps, as
they plunged into the Mediterranean, could build up these masses of
stratified pebbles, why not appeal to the same agency in Scotland,
though the mountains from which they flowed, and the sheet of water into
which they plunged, have alike vanished? The great flows of basalt--some
fresh and intact, some only giant fragments of yet vaster masses--the
broken cones of scoria, and the rounded hills of trachyte in Auvergne,
had supplied him with links between existing volcanoes and the huge
masses of trap with which Scotland had made him familiar; while these
basalt flows--modern in a geological sense, but carved and furrowed by
the streams which still were flowing in their gorges--showed that rain
and rivers were most potent, if not exclusive, agents in the excavation
of valleys. "The whole tour," thus he wrote to his father, "has been
rich, as I had anticipated (and in a manner which Murchison had not), in
those analogies between existing nature and the effects of causes in
remote eras which it will be the great object of my work to point out. I
scarcely despair now, so much do these evidences of modern action
increase upon us as we go south (towards the more recent volcanic seat
of action) of _proving_ the positive identity of the causes now
operating with those of former times."[21]

One important result of this journey was a conjoint paper on the
excavation of valleys in Auvergne, which was written before the friends
parted, and was read at the Geological Society in the later part of the
year. Lyell writes thus to one of his sisters from Rome, on his return
thither, in the following January[22]:--

"My letters from geological friends are very satisfactory as to the
unusual interest excited in the Geological Society by our paper on the
excavation of valleys in Auvergne. Seventy persons present the second
evening, and a warm debate. Buckland and Greenough furious, _contra_
Scrope, Sedgwick, and Warburton supporting us. These were the first two
nights in our new _magnificent_ apartments at Somerset House." He adds,
"Longman has paid down 500 _guineas_ to Mr. Ure, of Dublin, for a
popular work on geology, just coming out. It is to prove the Hebrew
cosmogony, and that we ought all to be burnt in Smithfield."

On the way to Naples, Lyell made several halts: at Parma, Bologna,
Florence, Siena, Viterbo, and Rome; visiting local geologists, studying
their collections of fossil shells, keeping his eye more especially on
the relations which the species exhibited with the fauna still existing
in the Mediterranean, and losing no opportunity of examining the ancient
volcanic vents and the crater lakes, which form in places such
remarkable features in the landscape. "The shells in the travertine," he
writes, "are all real species living in Italy, so you perceive that the
volcanoes had thrown out their ash, pumice, etc., and these had become
covered with lakes, and then the valleys had been hollowed out, all
before Rome was built, 2,500 years and more ago."

On reaching Naples, he climbed Vesuvius, and saw for the first time the
lava-streams and piles of scoria of a volcano still active; while the
wonderful sections of the old crater of Somma furnished a link between
the living present and the remote past--between Italy and Auvergne. He
visited Ischia, where another delightful surprise awaited him, for on
its old volcano, Monte Epomeo, he found, at a height of 2,000 feet above
the sea, marine shells which belonged "to the same class as those in the
lower regions of Ischia." They were contained in a mass of clay, and
were quite unaltered. This was a great discovery, for the existence of
these fossils "had not been dreamt of," and it showed that the land had
been elevated to this extent without any appreciable change in the fauna
inhabiting the Mediterranean. Except for this, the island was "an
admirable illustration of Mont Dore." He made an excursion also to the
Temples of Pæstum, wonderful from the weird beauty of their ruins, on
the flat plain between the Apennines and the sea, but with interest
geological as well as archæological, because of the blocks of rough
travertine with which their columns are built. These he studied, and he
visited the quarries from which they were hewn. His letters frequently
contain interesting references to the tyranny of the Government, "the
inquisitorial suppression of all cultivation of science, whether moral
or physical," the idle, happy-go-lucky habits of the common people, the
prevalent mendicancy, universal dishonesty, and general corruption. One
instance may be worth quoting--it indicates the material with which
"United Italy " has had to deal. He wanted to pre-pay the postage of a
letter to England. The head waiter at his hotel had said to him, "'Mind,
if it is to England you only pay fifteen grains' (sous). I thought the
hint a trait of character, as they are all suspicious of one another.
The clerk demanded twenty-five. I remonstrated, but he insisted, and, as
he was dressed and had the manners of a gentleman, I paid. When I found
on my return that I had been cozened, I asked the head waiter, with some
indignation, 'Is it possible that the Government officers are all
knaves?' 'Sono Napolitani, Signor; la sua eccellenza mi scusera, ma io
sono Romano!'"[23] The old proverb, what is bred in the bone will out in
the flesh, still holds good; but we may doubt whether the standard of
virtue is quite so high as the speaker intimated in certain other
provinces which Piedmont has acquired at the price of the cradle of the
royal house and some of the best blood of the nation.

At Naples, Lyell was detained longer than he had expected, waiting for a
Government steamer. "There was," he says, "no other way of going, for
the pirates of Tripoli have taken so many Neapolitan vessels that no one
who has not a fancy to see Africa will venture." But he arrived in
Sicily before the end of November, and succeeded in reaching the summit
of Etna on the first of December. He was only just in time, for the next
day bad weather set in, snow fell heavily, and the summit of the
mountain became practically inaccessible for the winter. But as it was,
he was able to examine carefully another active volcano, the phenomena
of which corresponded with those of Vesuvius, though on a grander scale.
From Nicolosi, where he was delayed a day or two by the weather, Lyell
went along the Catanian plain to Syracuse and southward to the extreme
point of the island, Cape Passaro. From this headland he followed the
coast westward as far as Girgenti, and then struck across the island in
an easterly direction till he came within about a day's journey of
Catania, and then he turned off in a north-westerly direction through
the island to Palermo. In this zigzag journey, which occupied about five
weeks, he succeeded in obtaining a good general knowledge of the geology
of the eastern part of the island; he examined many sections and
collected many fossils, thus obtaining material for an accurate
classification of the little-known deposits of the Sicilian lowland, and
in addition he lost no opportunity of studying the relations of the
volcanic masses, wherever they occurred, to the sedimentary strata. As
his letters show, bad roads, poor fare, and miserable accommodation made
the journey anything but one of pleasure; but its results, as he wrote
to Murchison, "exceeded his warmest expectations in the way of modern

By December 10th he was once more back in the Bay of Naples. As he
returned through Rome he availed himself of the opportunity of examining
the travertines of Tivoli, which, as he remarked, presented more
analogies with those of Sicily than of Auvergne, and welcomed the news
that the bones of an elephant had been found in an alluvial deposit
which lay beneath the lava of an extinct Tuscan volcano. His notes also
prove that he was beginning to see his way to the classification of the
extensive deposits of sand and marl in Italy and Sicily, which were
subsequently recognised as belonging to the Pliocene era.

Early in February Lyell reached Geneva on his homeward journey, after
crossing the Mont Cenis, and by the 19th was back in Paris among his
geological friends, "pumping them," as he says, and being well pumped in
return. Some of them, he finds, "have come by most opposite routes to
the same conclusions as myself, and we have felt mutually confirmed in
our views, although the new opinions must bring about an amazing
overthrow in the systems which we were carefully taught ten years ago."
The accurate knowledge of Deshayes, one of the most eminent
conchologists of that day, was especially helpful in bringing his field
work in Italy and Sicily into clear and definite order, and he obtained
from him a promise of tables of more than 2,000 species of Tertiary
shells, from which (he writes to his sister Caroline, who shared his
entomological tastes) "I will build up a system on data never before
obtained, by comparing the contents of the present with more ancient
seas, and the latter with each other."[24]

By the end of February he is back in London and at the Geological
Society, defending his views on the constancy of Nature's
operations--views which seemed rank heresy to the older school, who
sought to solve every difficulty by a convulsion, and were fettered in
their interpretation of the records of geology by supposed theological
necessities. In April Lyell writes thus to Dr. Mantel[25]:--

      "A splendid meeting [at the Geological Society] last night,
      Sedgwick in the chair. Conybeare's paper on Valley of the
      Thames, directed against Messrs. Lyell and Murchison's
      former paper, was read in part. Buckland present to defend
      the 'Diluvialists,' as Conybeare styles his sect; and us he
      terms 'Fluvialists.' Greenough assisted us by making an
      ultra speech on the importance of modern causes....
      Murchison and I fought stoutly, and Buckland was very piano.
      Conybeare's memoir is not strong by any means. He admits
      three deluges before the Noachian! and Buckland adds God
      knows how many _catastrophes_ besides; so we have driven
      them out of the Mosaic record fairly."

Again, in the month of June, he writes to the same correspondent in
regard to the second portion of the same paper[26]:--

      "The last discharge of Conybeare's artillery, served by the
      great Oxford engineer against the Fluvialists, as they are
      pleased to term us, drew upon them on Friday a sharp volley
      of musketry from all sides, and such a broadside, at the
      finale, from Sedgwick as was enough to sink the 'Reliquiæ
      Diluvianæ'[27] for ever, and make the second volume shy of
      venturing out to sea."

In a third letter, written to Dr. Fleming, he gives a similar account of
the battle between the Diluvialists and Fluvialists, and concludes with
these words[28]:--

      "I am preparing a general work on the younger epochs of the
      earth's history, which I hope to be out with next spring. I
      begin with Sicily, which has almost entirely risen from the
      sea, to the height of nearly 4,000 feet, since all the
      present animals existed in the Mediterranean!"


[9] Now recognised as gault. The identification named above was soon
found to be correct.

[10] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 127. Some sentences (for
the sake of brevity) are omitted from the quotation.

[11] He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1826.

[12] It appeared in the _Edin. Journ. Sci._, iii. (1825) p. 112, being
his first actual publication. Its importance consisted in proving that
serpentine was, or rather had been, an igneous rock. If proper attention
had been paid to it, fewer mistaken statements and hypotheses would have
attained the dignity of appearing in print.

[13] Dr. Gideon A. Mantell, a surgeon by profession, at that time
resident in Lewes, who made valuable contributions to the geology of
South-East England, and was also distinguished for his popular lectures
and books. He died in 1852.

[14] Probably referring to an article on Scrope's "Geology of Central
France," in which he shows that he fully accepted the Huttonian doctrine
of interpreting the geology of past ages by reference to the causes
still at work. It appeared in the _Quarterly Review_, Oct. 1827, vol.
xxxvi. p. 437.

[15] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 169.

[16] Dr. John MacCulloch, author (among other works) of the "Highlands
and Western Isles of Scotland." He was an excellent geologist on the
mineralogical side, but had little sympathy with palæontology or with
the views to which Lyell inclined. He died in 1835.

[17] This district had been already explored by Mr. G. P. Scrope, the
first edition of whose classic work, "The Volcanoes of Central France,"
was published in 1826.

[18] Sir John F. W. Herschel, the second of the illustrious astronomers
of that name.

[19] Sir W. J. Hooker.

[20] Certain passages in a letter of Sidonius Apollinaris, Bishop of
Clermont, dated about 460 A.D., and in the works of Alcimus Avitus,
Archbishop of Vienne, about half a century later, have been interpreted
as referring to volcanic eruptions somewhere in Auvergne. This, however,
is disputed by many authorities. (See _Geological Magazine_, 1865, p.

[21] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 199.

[22] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 238.

[23] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 215.

[24] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 252.

[25] _Ibid._

[26] _Ut suprà_, p. 253.

[27] "Reliquiæ Diluvianæ, or Observations on Organic Remains contained
in Caves, Fissures, and Diluvial Gravel, and on other Geological
Phenomena attesting the Action of an Universal Deluge." By Professor
Buckland. 1823.

[28] _Ut suprà_, p. 254.



The summer of 1829 was spent at Kinnordy, when the quarries of
Kirriemuir and the neighbouring districts were visited from time to
time, the workmen being encouraged to look out for the remains of plants
and the scales of fishes. Murchison, however, was again travelling on
the Continent, and, in company with Sedgwick, was exploring the
geological structure of the Eastern Alps and the basin of the Danube.
They appear to have kept up communication with Lyell, who hears with
satisfaction of the results of their work, since these cannot fail to
keep Murchison sound in the Uniformitarian faith and to complete the
conversion of Sedgwick.[29]

      "The latter" (Lyell writes to Dr. Fleming) "was astonished
      at finding what I had satisfied myself of everywhere, that
      in the more recent tertiary groups great masses of rock,
      like the different members of our secondaries, are to be
      found. They call the grand formation in which they have been
      working sub-Apennine. Vienna falls into it. I suspect it is
      a shade older, as the sub-Apennines are several shades older
      than the Sicilian tertiaries. They have discovered an
      immensely thick conglomerate, 500 feet of compact
      marble-like limestone, a great thickness of oolite, not
      distinguishable from Bath oolite, an upper red sand and
      conglomerate, etc. etc., all members of that group
      zoologically sub-Apennine. This is glorious news for me....
      It chimes in well with making old red transition mountain
      limestone and coal, and as much more as we can, _one epoch_,
      for when Nature sets about building in one place, she makes
      a great batch there.... All the freshwater, marine, and
      other groups of the Paris basin are one epoch, at the
      farthest not more separated than the upper and lower chalk."

A letter to the same correspondent, written nearly three weeks later, at
the end of October, and after his return to London, refers to the
consequences of this journey.[30]

      "Sedgwick and Murchison are just returned, the former full
      of magnificent views. Throws overboard all the diluvian
      hypothesis; is vexed he ever lost time about such a complete
      humbug; says he lost two years by having also started a
      Wernerian. He says primary rocks are not primary, but, as
      Hutton supposed, some igneous, some altered secondary. Mica
      schist in Alps lies _over_ organic remains. No rock in the
      Alps older than lias.[31] Much of Buckland's dashing paper
      on Alps wrong. A formation (marine) found at foot of Alps,
      between Danube and Rhine, thicker than all the English
      secondaries united. Munich is in it. Its age probably
      between chalk and our oldest tertiaries. I have this moment
      received a note from C. Prévost by Murchison. He has heard
      with delight and surprise of their Alpine novelties, and,
      alluding to them and other discoveries, he says: 'Comme nous
      allons rire de nos vieilles idées! Comme nous allons nous
      moquer de nous-mêmes!' At the same time he says: 'If in your
      book you are too hard on us on this side the Channel, we
      will throw at you some of old Brongniart's "metric and
      peponary blocks" which float in that general and universal
      diluvium, and have been there "depuis le grand jour qui a
      separé, d'une manière si tranchée, les temps ante-des-temps

A short time afterwards, in a letter addressed to Mr. Leonard Horner,
Lyell declines to become a candidate for the Professorship of Geology
and Mineralogy at the London University,[32] which was first opened in
the autumn of the previous year. Evidently he considers himself to be
too fully occupied, for he writes to Dr. Mantell on December 5th that
his book has taken a definite shape.[33] "I am bound hand and foot. In
the press on Monday next with my work, which Murray is going to
publish--2 vols.--the title, 'Principles of Geology: being an Attempt to
Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface by Reference to Causes
now in Operation.' The first volume will be quite finished by the end of
the month. The second is, in a manner, written, but will require great
recasting. I start for Iceland by the end of April, so time is
precious." The process of incubation was continued throughout the
winter. On February 3rd, 1830, he had corrected the press as far as the
eightieth page, getting on slowly, but with satisfaction to himself.
"How much more difficult it is," he remarks, "to write for general
readers than for the scientific world; yet half our _savants_ think that
to write _popularly_ would be a condescension to which they might bend
if they would." He fully expects that the publication of his book will
bring a hornet's nest about his head, but he has determined that, when
the first volume is attacked, he will waste no money on pamphleteering,
but will work on steadily at the second volume, and then, if the book
is a success, at the second edition, for "controversy is interminable
work." He felt now that the facts of nature were on his side, and his
conclusions right in the main; so, like most strong men, he adopted the
same course as did the founder of Marischal College, Aberdeen, and wrote
over the door of his study, "Lat them say."

The plan of a summer tour in Iceland fell through; so did another for a
long journey from St. Petersburg by Moscow to the Sea of Azof, to be
followed by an examination of the Crimea and the Great Steppe, and a
return up the Danube to Vienna; but by the middle of June the first
volume of the "Principles" was nearly finished; and in a letter to
Scrope,[34] to whom advance sheets of the book had been forwarded, in
order that he might review it in the _Quarterly_, Lyell explains
concisely the position which he has taken in regard to cosmology and the
earth's history.

      "Probably there was a beginning--it is a metaphysical
      question, worthy a theologian--probably there will be an
      end. Species, as you say, have begun and ended--but the
      analogy is faint and distant. Perhaps it is an analogy, but
      all I say is, there are, as Hutton said, 'no signs of a
      beginning, no prospect of an end.' Herschel thought the
      nebulæ became worlds. Davy said in his last book, 'It is
      always more probable that the new stars become visible, and
      then invisible, and pre-existed, than that they are created
      and extinguished.' So I think. All I ask is, that at any
      given period of the past, don't stop inquiry when puzzled by
      refuge to a beginning, which is all one with 'another state
      of nature,' as it appears to me. But there is no harm in
      your attacking me, provided you point out that it is the
      proof I deny, not the probability of a beginning. Mark, too,
      my argument, that we are called upon to say in each case,
      'Which is now most probable, my ignorance of all possible
      effects of existing causes,' or that 'the beginning' is the
      cause of this puzzling phenomenon?"

In other parts of the letter he refers to his theory of the dependence
of the climate of a region upon the geography, not only upon its
latitude, but also upon the distribution of land and sea, and that of
the coincidence of time between zoological and geographical changes in
the past, as the most novel parts of the book; stating also that he has
been careful to refer to all authors from whom he has borrowed, and that
to Scrope himself he is under more obligation, so far as he knows, than
to any other geologist. The concluding words also are interesting:--

      "I conceived the idea five or six years ago, that if ever
      the Mosaic geology could be set down without giving offence,
      it would be in an historical sketch, and you must abstract
      mine in order to have as little to say as possible yourself.
      Let them feel it, and point the moral."

The last-named difficulty, to which Lyell refers in another part of this
letter, was undoubtedly one of the most formidable "rocks ahead" in the
path of his new book. Up to that time the progress of geology had been
most seriously impeded by the supposed necessity of making its results
harmonise with the Mosaic cosmogony. It was assumed as an axiom that the
opening chapters of Genesis were to be understood in the strict literal
sense of the words, and that to admit the possibility of misconceptions
or mistakes in matters wholly beyond the cognisance of the writers, was
a denial of the inspiration of Scripture, and was rank blasphemy. A
large number of persons--among whom are the great mass of amateur
theologians, together with some experts--are always very prone to
assume the meaning of certain fundamental terms to be exactly that
which they desire, and then to proceed deductively to a conclusion as if
their questionable postulates were axiomatic truths. They further
assume, very commonly, that the possession of theological
knowledge--scanty and superficial though it may be--enables them to
dispense with any study of science, and to pronounce authoritatively on
the value of evidence which they are incapable of weighing, and of
conclusions which they are too ignorant to test. Being thus, in their
own opinion, infallible, a freedom of expression is, for them, more than
permissible, which, in most other matters, would be generally held to
transgress the limits of courtesy and to trespass on those of
vituperation. Lyell had perceived that little real progress could be
made till geologists were free to look facts in the face and to follow
their guidance to whatever conclusions these might lead, irrespective of
supposed consequences; or that, in other words, questions of science
must be settled by inductive reasoning from accurate observations, and
not by an appeal to the opinions of the men of olden time, however great
might be the sanctity of their characters or the honour due to their
memories. Wisely, however, he determined to prefer an indirect to a
direct method of attack, and to avoid, so far as was possible, giving
needlessly any cause of offence by abruptness of statement or by
intemperance of language.

In deluges, the favourite resort of every "catastrophic" geologist,
Lyell had long lost faith, and he laughs in one of his letters at the
idea of a French geologist, that a sudden upheaval of South America may
have been the cause of the Noachian flood. To the breaks in the
succession of strata, a fact upon which the catastrophists much relied,
he attached comparatively little value, insisting on their more or less
local character. In the records of the rocks he finds no trace of a
clean sweep of living creatures or of anything like a general clearance
of the earth's surface, and no corroboration of the Mosaic cosmogony. He
is bent on interpreting the work of Nature in the past by the work of
Nature in the present, and not by the writings of the Fathers, or even
by the words of Scripture itself.

Some time in the month of June the last sheet of the "Principles" must
have been sent to press; for on the 25th of that month Lyell writes from
Havre on his way to Bordeaux, through part of Normandy, Brittany, and La
Vendée. This journey took him, as he says, "through some of the finest
countries and most detestable roads he ever saw." On this occasion he
was accompanied by a Captain Cooke, a commander in the Royal Navy; a man
well informed, acquainted with Spain (the end of their journey), a
botanist, and not wholly ignorant of geology--in short, an excellent
companion, whose only fault was being "a little too fond of lagging a
day for rest," even in places where nothing is to be done. Writing from
Bordeaux to a sister, Lyell expresses a hope that at Bagnères de Luchon
he may hear whether his book is out.[35] Two passages in his letter are
not without a more general interest. One repeats a remark made to him by
D'Aubuisson, whom he describes as "a great gun of the old Wernerian
school, who ... thinks the interest of the subject greatly destroyed by
our new innovation, especially our having almost cut mineralogy and
turned it into a zoological science."[36] D'Aubuisson also said, "We
_Catholic_ geologists flatter ourselves that we have kept clear of the
mixing of things sacred and profane, but the three great Protestants, De
Luc, Cuvier, and Buckland, have not done so; have they done good to
science or to religion? No, but some say they have to themselves by it."
The other remark is interesting in its reference to French politics,
seeing that it is dated on the 9th of July, 1830. It runs thus[37]:--

      "The quiet and perfect order and calmness that reigned at
      Bourbon, Vendée, and Bordeaux and Toulouse during the heat
      of the elections, afford a noble example to us--never were
      people in a greater state of excitement on political grounds
      than the French at this moment, yet never in our country
      towns were Assizes conducted with more seriousness and
      quiet. There is no occasion to make the rabble drunk. All
      the voters of the little colleges are of the rank of
      shopkeepers at least, those of the highest are
      gentlemen--only 20,000 of them out of the 30 millions of
      French. They are too many for such jobbing as in a Scotch
      county, and too independent and rich to have the feelings of
      a mob."

Yet at the end of this month came the "three days of July"; "perfect
order and calmness" were at an end; Charles X. abdicated the throne, and
the Bourbons again became exiles from France.

From Toulouse Lyell and his companion journeyed by the banks of the
Ariège to the picturesque old town of Foix, and from this place to Ax,
a watering-place on one of the tributaries to that river, in the heart
of the Pyrenees. His keen eye notes at once the difference between the
scenery of this chain and that of the Alps. Apart from the different
character of the vegetation--the more luxuriant flora, the extensive
forests of beech and oak at elevations where in Switzerland only the
pines and larches would flourish--the valleys are narrower, the
mountains more precipitous--the scenery, in short, is more like that
around Interlaken or in the valley of Lauterbrunnen, without the lakes
of the one or the grand background of snowy peaks in the other. In the
Pyrenees the inferior height and the more southern position of the chain
diminishes the snowfields and curtails the glaciers, so that the
torrents run with purer waters, like they do in the Alps about the
birthplace of the Po.

In order to acquire a clear idea of the structure of the Pyrenees the
travellers crossed from Ax to the southern side of the watershed, though
they still remained on French territory; for here, in the neighbourhood
of Andorre, the frontier cuts off the heads of one or two valleys which
geographically form part of Spain. Into this country they had purposed
to descend, but the obstacles interposed by the reactionary jealousy of
local Dogberries and the possible risks from political complications
were so great, that they judged it wiser to abandon the attempt. So the
travellers separated for a time, Captain Cooke, who feared the heat of
the lower country, going eastwards through the curious little mountain
republic of Andorre to Luchon; while Lyell, who seems to have been
proof against the sun, recrossed the watershed into the valley of the
Tet and descended it to Perpignan. Information obtained in this town
encouraged him to go direct to Barcelona, where the Captain-General, the
Conde D'Espagne, a distinguished soldier and diplomatist, gave him a
courteous reception, and did everything in his power to smooth the way
for a visit to Olot, a region of extinct volcanoes, which had been one
of the chief ends of Lyell's journey. The expedition was successful; he
did not fall among thieves, and was only annoyed by the tedious
formalities and petty impertinences of the local functionaries of
northern Spain; and he returned to France by a pass on the eastern side
of the Canigou. He was not a little astonished, as might be expected
from the remarks already quoted, when he found on arriving in that
country that the reign of the Bourbons and the priests was over, the
tricolor flag was hoisted on all the churches, and the royalist
officials had been replaced by the nominees of the National Government.

The visit to Olot amply repaid him for the toil and trouble of the
journey. An account of the district was inserted in the concluding
volume of the "Principles," which was afterwards incorporated into the
"Elements of Geology." The following summary is quoted from a letter to
Scrope, who had suggested the visit, which was written from Luchon,
where he arrived a few days after his return into France[38]:--

      "Like those of the Vivarais [the volcanoes of Catalonia] are
      all, both cones and craters, subsequent to the existence of
      the actual hills and dales, or, in other words, no
      alteration of previously existing levels accompanied or has
      followed the introduction of the volcanic matter, except
      such as the matter erupted necessarily occasioned. The
      cones, at least fourteen of them mostly with craters, stand
      like Monpezat, and as perfect; the currents flow down where
      the rivers would be if not displaced. But here, as in the
      Vivarais, deep sections have been cut through the lava by
      streams much smaller in general, and at certain points the
      lava is fairly cut through, and even in two or three cases
      the subjacent rock. Thus at Castel Follet, a great current
      near its termination is cut through, and eighty or ninety
      feet of columnar basalt laid open, resting on an old
      alluvium, not containing volcanic pebbles; and below that,
      nummulitic limestone is eroded to the depth of twenty-five
      feet, the river now being about thirty-five feet lower than
      when the lava flowed, though most of the old valley is still
      occupied by the lava current. There are about fourteen or
      perhaps twenty points of eruption without craters. In all
      cases they burst through secondary limestone and sandstone,
      no altered rocks thrown up, as far as I could learn, not a
      dike exposed. A linear direction in the cones and points of
      eruption from north to south. Until some remains of
      quadrupeds are found, or other organic medals found, no
      guess can be made as to their geological date, unless anyone
      will undertake to say when the valleys of that district were
      excavated. As to historical dates, that is all a fudge ... I
      can assure you that there never was an eruption within
      memory of man."

At Luchon Lyell rejoined Captain Cooke, and they visited one or two
interesting spots in the more western part of the Pyrenees, such as the
Cirque de Gavarnie and the Brèche de Roland. The former would afford
object-lessons on the erosive action of cascades; the latter would set
him speculating on the causes which could have fashioned that strange
portal in the limestone crest of the mountain. They descended some
distance on the Spanish side of the Brèche, in order to make a more
complete investigation of the structure of the chain, sleeping at a
shepherd's hut and returning across the snowfields next day. It is
evident that whenever there was a hope of securing any geological
information or of seeing some remarkable aspect of nature, Lyell was
almost insensible either to heat or to fatigue.

Towards the middle of September he had reached Bayonne, from which place
another very interesting letter is despatched to Scrope.[39] In this he
gives suggestions for making a number of experiments in order to produce
by artificial means such rock-structures as lamination, ripple-mark, and
current-bedding, and describes briefly a series of observations bearing
on these questions, which had been carried out both during his late
journey and on other occasions. "I have," he says, "for a long time been
making minute drawings of the lamination and stratification of beds, in
formations of very different ages, first with a view to prove to
demonstration that at every epoch the same identical causes were in
operation. I was next led in Scotland to a suspicion, since confirmed,
that all the minute regularities and irregularities of stratification
and lamination were preserved in primary clay-slate, mica-slate, gneiss,
etc., showing that they had been subjected to the same general and even
accidental circumstances attending the sedimentary accumulation of
secondary and fossil-bearing formations.[40] Lastly, I came to find out
that all these various characters were identical with those presented
by the bars, deltas, etc., of existing rivers, estuaries, etc."

Early in October Lyell is back again in Paris, to find Louis Philippe
seated on the throne in the place of Charles X., and a war party
"praying night and day for the entry of the Prussians into Belgium in
the hope of the French being drawn into the affair. A finer opportunity,
they say, could not have happened for resuming our natural limits on the
Rhine." In the midst of political changes and warlike aspirations
geology, he observes, is not making much progress in Paris. Some of the
naturalists have "got their heads too full of politics"; others are
forced to work as literary hacks in order to live. "Books on natural
history and medicine have no sale; there is a demand only for political
pamphlets." So Lyell enters into an engagement with Deshayes, who, like
so many others, has to live by his pen lest he should starve by science,
for "a private course of fossil conchology," and for two months' work
after Lyell has returned to England, to be spent in tabulating the
species of Tertiary shells in his own (Deshayes') and the other great
collections of Paris. "I shall thus," Lyell says, "be giving the subject
a decided push by rendering the greater wealth of the French collectors
available in illustrating the greater experience of the English
geologists in actual observation; for here they sit still and buy
shells, and work indoors, as much as we travel." He also remarks to the
same correspondent (a sister): "I am nearly sure now that my grand
theory of temperature will carry the day.... I will treat our geologists
with a theory for the newer deposits in next volume, which, although
not half so original, will perhaps surprise them more."[41] He was
expecting, as another letter shows, to prove the gradual approximation
of the fauna preserved in the Tertiary deposits to that which still
exists, and to settle, as he hopes "for ever, the question whether
species come in all at a batch or are always going out and coming in."
Already he is in a position to affirm that the Tertiary formations of
Sicily in all probability are more recent than the "crags" of England,
for, among the sixty-three species which he had collected from the beds
underlying Etna, only three were not known to be still inhabitants of
the Mediterranean; and besides this, between these "crags" and the
London clay a series of formations can be intercalated. In the same
letter (to Scrope)[42] he states that Deshayes has found, at St. Mihiel
on the Meuse, three old needles of limestone, like those in the Isle of
Wight, round which run three distinct lines of perforations, like those
on the columns of the "Temple of Serapis;" these hollows being
"sometimes empty, but thousands of them filled with saxicavas." This, of
course, was a proof that there had been, in comparatively recent times,
important changes in the level of the land and sea.

Early in November Lyell is back in London, at his chambers in Crown
Office Row, Temple, to find that Scrope's review of the first volume of
the "Principles" has been much admired, that the book is selling
steadily, and is likely to prove "as good as an annuity"; that it has
not been seriously attacked by the "Diluvialists," while it has been
highly praised by the bulk of geologists. He is about to move, he
writes, into chambers in Raymond Buildings, Gray's Inn, which are "very
light, healthy and good, on the same staircase as Broderip." Invitations
to dinner are becoming frequent, but he wisely determines to go but
little into society. "All my friends," he says, "who are in practice do
this all the year and every year, and I do not see why I should not be
privileged, now that I have the moral certainty of earning a small but
honourable independence if I labour as hard for the next ten years as
during the last three. I was never in better health, rarely so good, and
after so long a fallow I feel that a good crop will be yielded and that
I am in good train for composition."[43] The second volume, he hopes,
will be out in six months; this will include the history of the globe to
the beginning of the Tertiary era, when the first of existing species

The next year, 1831, was an epoch marked by more than one change. To
take the smallest first, he was made a deputy-lieutenant of the county
of Forfar; next, in March, he was elected Professor of Geology at King's
College, London, which had been recently founded by members of the
Church of England as an educational counterpoise to the University of
London (University College). To Lyell himself the appointment was
comparatively unimportant, but it indicated that wider views on
scientific questions and a more tolerant spirit were gaining ground
among the higher ranks of the clergy in the Established Church. The
appointment was in the hands, exclusively, of the Archbishop of
Canterbury, the Bishops of London and of Llandaff, and two "strictly
orthodox doctors." Llandaff, Lyell was informed, hesitated, but
Conybeare,[44] though opposed to Lyell's theories, vouched for his
orthodoxy. So the prelates declared that they "considered some of my
doctrines startling enough, but could not find that they were come by
otherwise than in a straight-forward manner, and (as I appeared to
think) logically deducible from the facts; so that whether the facts
were true or not, or my conclusions logical or otherwise, there was no
reason to infer that I had made my theory from any hostile feeling
towards revelation"[45]--a conclusion, marked by a wise caution, which
representatives of the Church of England would have done well to bear in
mind on more than one subsequent occasion--such as, for example, when
the question of the antiquity of man or that of the origin of species
was raised. But supporters of the Church of England may fairly maintain
that in difficult crises, especially in those connected with discoveries
in science or in history, the utterances of her bishops have been
generally cautious and far-seeing; displays of confident ignorance and
rash denunciations are more common among the "inferior clergy." As a
comment on the moderation indicated by his election, Lyell says that a
friend in the United States affirms that there "he could hardly dare to
approve of the doctrines even in a review, such a storm would the
orthodox raise against him. So much for toleration of Church
Establishment and No Church Establishment countries." A third event of
the year--which also happened in the earlier part of it--was destined to
exercise a much more lasting influence upon his life. This was his
engagement to Miss Mary Horner, eldest daughter of Mr. Leonard Horner,
the younger and hardly less distinguished brother of Francis Horner,
who, while almost as enthusiastic a geologist as his future son-in-law,
took an active interest in educational questions, and afterwards did
public service as Inspector of Factories.

By the middle of June Lyell had advanced as far as page 110 in printing
the second volume of the "Principles of Geology," notwithstanding
interruptions, such as a visit to Cambridge, where he took an _ad
eundem_ degree,[46] and the presence of his father and brother, as well
as of his friend Conybeare, in London, all of whom required to be
lionised. The letter[47] (to Mantell) which refers to these impediments,
passes abruptly from Fitton's broken arm to the giant femur of a new
reptile, and incidentally mentions the discovery of a section which has
since become a centre of geological controversy. "Murchison and his
wife," he writes, "are gone to make a tour in Wales, where a certain
Trimmer has found near Snowdon 'crag' shells at a height of 1,000 feet,
which Buckland and he convey thither by the deluge." The shells are at
an altitude above sea-level considerably higher than Lyell supposed.
Moel Tryfaen is a massive, rather outlying hill, about five miles west
of the peak of Snowdon, and at about the same distance from the nearest
part of the sea-coast. Its bare summit rises gently to a scattered group
of projecting crags, the highest of which is 1,401 feet above the sea.
On the eastern side are extensive slate quarries, and in working these
the shell beds are disclosed a short distance below the summit. They
consist of well-stratified sands, with occasional gravelly beds, and
contain a fair number of shells, both broken and whole, the fauna being
slightly more arctic than that which still inhabits the neighbouring
sea. The deposit is now recognised as more recent than the "crags" of
East Anglia, for none of the species are extinct, and is assigned to
some part of the so-called Glacial Epoch. It was before long regarded as
an indication that, at no very remote date after North Wales had assumed
or very nearly assumed its present outlines, the whole district was
depressed for at least 1,380 feet, so that the sea broke over the summit
crags of Moel Tryfaen. For many years this interpretation passed
unquestioned; but a modern school of geologists has found it to be such
an inconvenient obstacle to certain hypotheses about the former extent
of land-ice, that they maintain these shells were collected from the bed
of the Irish Sea (then supposed to be above water) by an ice-sheet as it
was on its way from the north to invade the Principality, and were
conveyed by it, with all care, up the slopes of Moel Tryfaen, till they
were finally deposited on its summit, in beds which somehow or other
were stratified. One may venture to doubt whether the hypothesis of a
rampant and conchologically-disposed ice-sheet would have found much
more favour with the cautiously inductive mind of Lyell than that of a

Shortly after this letter, Lyell, though all the manuscript of his
second volume had not yet been sent to the printers, and proof-sheets
followed him, refreshed himself with a tour of four or five weeks in the
volcanic district of the Eifel. Here the cones, all comparatively low,
are scattered sporadically over a rolling upland which occupies the
angle between the Rhine and the Moselle. The valleys for the most part
are carved out of slaty rocks much of the same age as those of
Devonshire; and the craters, "strange holes, each eruption having been
almost invariably at some new point," are now very commonly occupied by
quiet pools of water, such as Lyell had already seen in the old volcanic
districts of the Papal States. Among these craters, composed sometimes
of loose and light scoria, from which no lava-stream ever flowed, he
found fresh evidence--as at the Rotherberg--against the diluvian
hypothesis. "It is," as he writes to his friend, Dr. Fleming, "one of
the ten thousand proofs of the incubus that the Mosaic deluge has been,
and is, I fear, long destined to be, on our science. Now, I am fully
determined to open my strongest fire against the new diluvial theory of
swamping our continents by waves raised by paroxysmal earthquakes. I can
prove by reference to cones (hundreds of uninjured cones) of loose
volcanic scoriæ and ashes, of various and some of great antiquity (as
proved by associated organic remains), that no such general waves have
swept over Europe during the Tertiary era--cones at almost every height,
from near the sea, to thousands of feet above it."[48]

But early in August he was back in London, hard at work in writing and
correcting proofs. This business detained him longer than he
anticipated, but his labours were cheered by the news of the eruption of
Graham's Island. Here was another case in support of the thesis which he
was ready to maintain against all comers. But a few months since there
had been a depth of eighty fathoms, as was proved by sounding, on the
site of this island. Now the cone "is 200 feet above water and is still
growing.[49] Here is a hill 680 feet, with hope of more, and the
probability of much having been done before the 'Britannia' sounded."
Surely Nature herself was testifying "her approbation of the advocates
of modern causes! Was the cross which Constantine saw in the heavens a
more clear indication of the approaching conversion of a wavering

But in the beginning of September Lyell broke away from the emissaries
of the press and took passage by sea to Edinburgh, there to combine
business with a fair amount of both scientific work and social pleasure.
This visit afforded him an opportunity of hearing Chalmers preach. In a
letter to Miss Horner he gives a brief abstract, and expresses his
general opinion of the sermon[50]:--

      "It was a very long discourse, but admirable. The subject
      was 'repentance,' a hackneyed one enough.... He explained
      the effect of habit, and its increasing power over the mind,
      as a law of our nature, with as much clearness and as
      philosophically as he could have done had he been explaining
      the doctrine to a class of university students in a lecture
      on the philosophy of the human mind. But then the practical
      application was enforced by a strain of real eloquence, of a
      very energetic, natural, and striking description.... But,
      unfortunately, every here and there he seemed to feel that
      he was sinning against some of the Calvinistic doctrines of
      his school, and all at once there was some dexterous
      pleading about 'original sin,' which interfered a little
      with the free current of the discourse.... Upon the whole,
      however, judging from this single specimen, I think I would
      sooner hear him again than any preacher I ever heard,
      Reginald Heber not excepted."

At this time Lyell was keeping a journal, which was forwarded to Miss
Horner, then in Germany, to serve apparently as a substitute for
ordinary letters; home news, disturbances arising from the struggle over
the Reform Bill, visits of friends, geological researches, walks on the
hills to search for plants or for insects, the habits of the Kinnordy
bees, or the accomplishments of two parrots, brought from Africa by his
naval brother--all being jotted down just as they occurred.

Among this _farrago_--though not of nonsense--geological topics, since
Miss Horner had similar tastes, occupy a considerable space. She,
however, evidently was, comparatively speaking, a beginner, and in one
or two characteristic sentences her lover and preceptor passes from
information to counsel: "If you are not frightened by De la Beche, I
think you are in a fair way to be a geologist; though it is in the field
only that a person can really get to like the stiff part of it. Not that
there is really anything in it that is not very easy, when put into
plainer language than scientific writers choose often unnecessarily to
employ." He also records[51] a piece of advice from his old friend, Dr.
Fleming, which is enough to make a modern professor of geology sigh for
"the good old times." He said to Lyell:

      "If you lecture once a year for a short course, I am sure
      you will derive advantage from it. A short practice of
      lecturing is a rehearsal of what you may afterwards publish,
      and teaches you by the contact with pupils how to instruct,
      and in what you are obscure. A little of this will improve
      your power, perhaps as an author. Then, as you are pursuing
      a path of original and purely independent discovery and
      observation, it increases much your public usefulness in a
      science so unavoidably controversial to have thrown over you
      the _moral protection_ of being in a public and responsible
      situation, connected with a body like King's College. But
      then you must stipulate that you are to be free to travel,
      and must only be bound to give one short course annually."

Truly those must have been halcyon days for professors!

The journal also proves, by its brief account of a Scotch festival,
which accords with little hints dropped elsewhere in it or in letters,
that our forefathers, not wholly excluding men of science, some sixty
years ago habitually consumed much more "strong drink" than would be
considered correct at the present day:--

      "It was just an Angus set-to of the old _régime_. They
      arrived at half-past six o'clock and waited dinner one hour.
      Gentlemen rejoined the ladies at half-past twelve o'clock!
      They, in the meantime, had had tea, and a regular supper
      laid out in the drawing-room. After an hour with the ladies
      they returned to the dining-room to supper at half-past one
      o'clock, and my father left them at half-past two o'clock!
      The ladies did not go to _this_ supper."

The journal, in short, like the well-known Scotch dish, affords a great
deal of "confused feeding" of a pleasant sort, but no samples of
love-making. The nearest approach to it is in the following passage,
which is worth quoting, not for that reason, but as incidentally
disclosing the strength of the author's character:--

      "I shall write a few words before I get into the steamboat
      just to tranquillise my mind a little, after reading several
      controversial articles by Elie de Beaumont and others
      against my system. If I find myself growing too warm or
      annoyed at such hostile demonstrations I shall always
      retreat to you. You will be my harbour of peace to retire
      to, and where I may forget the storm. I know that by
      persevering steadily I shall some years hence stand very
      differently from where I now am in science; and my only
      danger is the being impatient, and tempted to waste my time
      on petty controversies and quarrels about the priority of
      the discovery of this or that fact or theory."[52]

Friends in plenty were awaiting him in London, which was reached about
the first of November: the Murchisons and Somervilles, Broderip, Curtis,
Basil Hall, and Hooker, with Necker from Switzerland, and many more. He
is also cheered by finding that his ideas are steadily gaining ground
among geologists, converts becoming more confident, unbelievers more
uneasy. He made good progress with his book, and realised, before the
end of the year, that his materials could not be compressed into a
single volume; so he determined to issue the part already completed as a
second volume, and to finish the work in a third.

From time to time the diary contains references to a recent contest for
the Presidency of the Royal Society, and to political matters such as
the Reform Bill; but, though in favour of the latter, he is not very
enthusiastic on the subject, for on one occasion he expresses regret at
having been absent, through forgetfulness, from a meeting of the
Geographical Society, where he would have "got some sound information
instead of hearing politicians discuss the interminable bill."

The lectures at King's College evidently weighed upon his mind as they
drew near, and he was not stirred to enthusiasm by the prospect of
teaching; for towards the close of the year he more than once debated
with his friends the question whether or no he should retain the
appointment. Murchison was in favour of resignation; Conybeare took the
opposite view. Of his advice Lyell remarks, "The fact is, Conybeare's
notion of these things is what the English public have not yet come up
to, which, if they had, the geological professorship in London would be
a worthy aim for any man's ambition, whereas it is now one that the
multitude would rather wonder at one's accepting."[53] The British
public apparently still lags a long way behind the Conybearian ideal,
and retains its contempt for all those who, by presuming to teach,
insinuate doubts as to its innate omniscience.

Lyell, however, clearly perceived that it was absolutely necessary that
every teacher of professorial rank should be himself a pioneer in his
subject--a fact of which government officials, as a rule, seem to be
totally ignorant. His comments, a little later in the year, on the
arrangements at the University of Bonn are worth recording. "The
Professors have to lecture for nine months in the year--too much, I
should think, for allowing time for due advancement of the teacher."
Lyell's desires in regard to remuneration seem reasonable enough. He is
anxious to earn by his scientific work enough to provide for the extra
expenses which this work entails, and yet to command sufficient time to
advance his knowledge and reputation. The fates proved more propitious
to him than they are generally to men of science, for he succeeded in
accomplishing both of his desires.

Little of importance happened during the early part of 1832. There was
plenty of hard work in collecting facts, in consulting friends about
special difficulties, and in working at the manuscript for the third
volume of the "Principles," for the second made its appearance almost
with the new year. Toil was sweetened by occasional pleasures, such as
an evening with the Somervilles, or a dinner party at the Murchisons, a
talk with Babbage or Fitton, or a symposium at the Geological Club, at
which it is sometimes evident that good care was taken lest science
should become too dry. One passage in his diary indicates that sixty
years have considerably changed the habits of life in town and in the
country, for at the present day most people would express themselves in
the opposite sense. "I have enjoyed parties and two plays this month
very much, because it was recreation stolen from work; but the
difficulty in the country is that, on the contrary, one's hours of work
are stolen from dissipation."

The lectures at King's College were begun in May. Lyell evidently was
not a nervous man, but he regarded the near approach of this new kind of
work with some trepidation, and admits that he slept ill before the
first lecture. It was, however, a decided success in every respect, and
the audience was a large one, for the Council, after some hesitation,
had permitted the attendance of ladies. Each lecture was pronounced by
the hearers to be better than the last, and Lyell uses the opportunity,
as he says, to fire occasional shots at Buckland, Sedgwick, and others
who are still hankering after catastrophic convulsions and all-but
universal deluges. As a further encouragement, his publisher, Murray,
agrees willingly to a reprint of the first volume of the "Principles,"
and only hesitates between an edition of 750 or of 1,000 copies. About
this time, also, he was asked to undertake the presidency of the
Geological Society, but that, notwithstanding Murchison's urgency, he
firmly declined for the present; writing of it to Miss Horner, "It is
just one of those temptations the resisting of which decides whether a
man shall really rise high or not in science. For two more years I am
free from _les affaires administratives_, which, said old Brochart in
his late letter to me, have prevented _me_ from studying geology _d'une
manière suivie_, whereby _you_ have already carried it so far."

He was, however, soon to be engrossed in an "affair" of another kind;
one which has proved very detrimental to the progress of many men of
science, but which, in Lyell's case, had the happiest results, and
smoothed rather than it impeded his path to fame; for in the summer--on
July 12th--he ceased to be a bachelor. The marriage was celebrated at
Bonn, where Miss Horner's family were still resident. A Lutheran
clergyman seems to have officiated, and the ceremony was a very quiet
one; the distance from home preventing the attendance of English friends
or even of relations of the bridegroom.

The newly-married couple departed from Bonn up the Rhine, and travelled
by successive stages to Heidelberg, but they were not forgetful of
geology, even in the first week of the honeymoon, for they visited as
they journeyed more than one interesting section on the western edge of
the Odenwald. Then they made excursions to Carlsruhe and Baden-Baden,
and ultimately travelled from Freiburg to Schaffhausen through the
romantic defiles of the Höllenthal, and across the corner of the Black
Forest. A journal was now needless, and probably the newly-married
couple were too much engrossed with their own happiness to write many
letters, for few details have been preserved about their Swiss tour. It
was, however, comparatively a short one, for they remained less than a
fortnight in the country. Still Lyell probably found it useful in
refreshing recollections and testing his early impressions by greatly
increased knowledge and experience. From the valley of the Rhone they
crossed the Simplon Pass into Italy and followed the usual road to Milan
along the shore of the Lago Maggiore.

How long they remained in Italy, or by what route they returned to
England, is not stated; indeed, for nearly six months next to nothing is
on record concerning Lyell's movements or work, but in the beginning of
1833 he and his wife were settled in London at No. 16, Hart Street,
Bloomsbury, which became their residence for some years. A state of
happiness is not always indicated by much correspondence: probably it
was so with Lyell; at any rate, a single letter, dated January 5th,
gives the only information of his doings between September, 1832, and
April, 1833. In this letter, however, he mentions that the Council of
King's College had decided that in future ladies should not be admitted
to Lyell's lectures, and that, in consequence, he had received a
pressing invitation from the managers of the Royal Institution to give,
after Easter, a course of six or eight lectures in their theatre,
coupled with the offer of a substantial remuneration.

At the end of April, as he tells his old friend Mantell, both these
courses had been begun. The one at the Royal Institution was attended by
an audience of about 250, that at King's College, after the opening
lecture, dropped down to a class of fifteen. The falling-off was
entirely due to the above-named resolution. For this the Council had
assigned a reason, which, perhaps, was not a prudent course, for bodies
of that kind, when they give reasons, often succeed only in "giving
themselves away." The presence of ladies was forbidden, "because it
diverted the attention of the young students, of whom," Lyell remarks
sarcastically, "I had _two_ in number from the college last year and
_two_ this." Had the Council stated boldly that the College did not
appoint professors to lecture _urbi et orbi_, their policy, though it
would have appeared a little selfish and might have proved shortsighted,
would have been defensible, because the institution was founded for the
education of a particular class. But the reason assigned was open to
Lyell's retort, and gave the impression of unreality. It is not
impossible that the decision was the result of secret "wire-pulling,"
and represented not so much a fear of the disturbing influence of the
fair sex as a dread of the popularity of the subject. Geology was still
regarded with grave distrust by a very large number of people, and
King's College, it must be remembered, was founded in the supposed
interests of the Church of England and in the hope of neutralising the
effects of the unsectarian institution in Gower Street. Many of its
supporters may have been characterised rather by the ardour of their
dislikes than by the width of their sympathies, and may have put
pressure on the Council, so that this body may have considered it safer
to risk driving a popular man from their staff than to alienate an
important section of their adherents and to expose the College to the
danger of being charged with lending itself to heretical teaching.[54]

The preparation of these lectures must have been attended with some
difficulty, for Lyell writes that, "like all the world," he and his
household--everyone except his wife--had been down with the influenza,
which in that year was even more rampant in London than it has been in
any of its recent visits. But, notwithstanding this and any other
interruptions, the third and final volume of the "Principles of Geology"
made its appearance in the month of May, 1833.


[29] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 255.

[30] _Ut suprà_, p. 256.

[31] Further work has not verified some of these statements. There can
be no question that a great deal of rock in the Alps is much older than
even the Trias. The apparent superposition of crystalline schists to
rocks with fossils is due to over-folding or over-thrust
faulting--_i.e._ the schists are the older rocks. Though the Secondary
rocks of the Alps have undergone, in places, some modification and
mineral changes, these are very different from the metamorphism of those
crystalline schists which have a stratified origin.

[32] Now "University College," London, having been incorporated by Royal
Charter under that title in November, 1836.

[33] _Ut suprà_, p. 258.

[34] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. pp. 269-271.

[35] When he left the publisher had not decided whether it should be
issued at once or kept back till October.

[36] D'Aubuisson, as time has shown, foresaw a real danger. The neglect
of, if not contempt for, mineralogy, which became conspicuous between
the years 1840 and 1870, or thereabouts, seriously impeded the progress
of geology, at any rate in England.

[37] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 276.

[38] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 283.

[39] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 296.

[40] Subsequent experience has shown that, while the above observations
are beyond all question in the case of ordinary sedimentary rocks,
structures curiously resembling lamination and ripple-mark may be
produced in certain gneisses and crystalline schists by other causes.
Still, in many schists, they have originated in the way suggested by
Lyell, and indicate that the rock formerly was deposited by water.

[41] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 303.

[42] _Ut suprà_, p. 305.

[43] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 313.

[44] The Rev. W. D. Conybeare, afterwards Dean of Llandaff, an eminent
geologist, rather senior to Lyell.

[45] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 316.

[46] It was formerly conceded by the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge,
and Dublin that a Master of Arts in any one could assume, under certain
conditions, the same position in the others. This carried with it some
privileges, though not the suffrage and the full rights of the degree.
Lyell had proceeded to the degree of M.A. at Oxford in 1821.

[47] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 318.

[48] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 328.

[49] _Ut suprà_, p. 329. By the end of October it had not only ceased to
grow, but also had been nearly washed away by the sea. Now its position
is marked by a shoal.

[50] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 331.

[51] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 342.

[52] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 347.

[53] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 358.

[54] Lyell resigned the Professorship after he had finished the course.



The publication of the last volume of the "Principles of Geology" formed
an important epoch in Lyell's life. It brought to a successful close a
work on which his energies had been definitely concentrated for nearly
five years, and for which he had been preparing himself during a
considerably longer time. It placed him, before his fourth decade was
completed, at once and beyond all question in the front rank of British
geologists; it carried his reputation to every country where that
science was cultivated. It proved the writer to be not only a careful
observer and a reasoner of exceptional inductive power, but also a man
of general culture and a master of his mother tongue. The book,
moreover, marked an epoch in geology not less important; it produced an
influence on the science greater and more permanent than any work which
had been previously written, or has since appeared--greater even than
the famous "Origin of Species by Natural Selection," for that dealt only
with one portion of geology--viz. with palæontology, while the method of
the Principles affected the science in every part. For a brief interval,
then, we may desert the biography of the author for that of the
book--the parent for his offspring--and call attention to one or two
topics which are more immediately connected with the book itself. A
brief sketch of its future history may be placed first; for, as its
author was constantly labouring to improve and perfect his work, it
underwent many changes in form and arrangement during the
remainder--some two-and-forty years--of his life, which will be better
understood from a connected statement than if they have to be gathered
from scattered references in the other chapters of his biography.

The first volume of the "Principles of Geology" appeared, as has been
mentioned, in January, 1830; the second in January, 1832; and the third
in May, 1833. But a second edition of the first volume was issued in
January, 1832, and one of the second volume in the same month of 1833;
these were all in 8vo size. A new edition of the whole work was
published in May, 1834. This, however, took the form of four volumes
12mo. This edition was called the third, because the first two volumes
of the original work had gone through second editions. A fourth edition
followed in June, 1835, and a fifth in March, 1837.

Thus far the "Principles" continued without any substantial alteration,
but the author made an important change in preparing the next edition.
He detached from it the latter part--practically, the matter comprised
in the third volume of the original work. This he rewrote and published
separately as a single volume in July, 1838, under the title of
"Elements of Geology"; a sixth edition of the "Principles," thus
curtailed, appeared in three volumes 12mo, in June, 1840. The effect of
the change was to restrict the "Principles" mainly to the physical side
of geology--to the subjects connected with the morphological changes
which the earth and its inhabitants alike undergo. Thus it made the
contents of the book accord more strictly with its title, while the
"Elements" indicated the working out of the aforesaid principles in the
past history of the earth and its inhabitants--that is, the latter book
deals with the classification of rocks and fossils, or with petrology
and historical geology. The subsequent history of the "Elements" may be
left for the present.

In February, 1847, the seventh edition of the "Principles" appeared, in
which another change was made. This, however, was in form rather than in
substance, for the book was now issued in a single thick 8vo volume. The
eighth edition, published in May, 1850; and the ninth, in June, 1853,
followed the same pattern. A longer interval elapsed before the
appearance of the tenth edition, and this was published in two volumes,
the first being issued in November, 1866, and the second in 1868. In
this interval--more than thirteen years--the science had made rapid
progress, and the process of revision had been in consequence more than
usually searching. The author, as he states in the preface, had "found
it necessary entirely to rewrite some chapters, and recast others, and
to modify or omit some passages given in former editions." Many new
instances were given to illustrate the effect which forces still at work
had produced upon the earth's crust, and these strengthened the evidence
which had been already advanced. Into the accounts of Vesuvius and Etna
much important matter was introduced, the result of visits which, as we
shall find, Lyell made in 1857 and 1858; the chapters relating to the
vicissitudes of climate in past geological ages were entirely rewritten,
together with that discussing the connection between climate and the
geography of the earth's surface; and a chapter, practically new, was
inserted, which considered "how far former vicissitudes in climate may
have been influenced by astronomical changes; such as variations in the
eccentricity of the earth's orbit, changes in the obliquity of the
ecliptic, and different phases of the precession of the equinoxes." But
the most important change was made in the later part of the book--the
last fifteen chapters.[55] These either were entirely new, or presented
the original material in a new aspect. In the earlier editions of his
work, Lyell had expressed himself dissatisfied, as we have already seen,
with the idea of the derivation of species from antecedent forms by some
process of modification, and had pointed out the weak places in the
arguments which were advanced in its favour. But the evidence adduced by
Darwin and Wallace in regard to the origin of species by natural
selection, strengthened by the support of Hooker on the botanical side,
had removed the difficulties which the cruder statements of Lamarck and
other predecessors had suggested to his mind, so that Lyell now appears
as a convinced evolutionist. The question also of the antiquity of man
is much more fully discussed than it had been in the earlier editions.

Considerable changes were introduced into the eleventh edition, which
appeared in January, 1872, but these were chiefly additions which were
made possible by the rapidly increasing store of knowledge, as, for
instance, much important information concerning the deeper parts of the
ocean. On this interesting subject great light had been thrown by the
cruises of the several exploring vessels, notably those of the
_Lightning_, the _Bulldog_, and the _Porcupine_, commissioned by the
British Government--cruises in the course of which soundings had been
taken and temperatures observed in the North Atlantic down to depths of
about 2,500 fathoms; and in the lowest parts of the western basin of the
Mediterranean. Samples also of the bottom had been obtained, and, in
many cases, even dredgers had been successfully employed at these
depths. Thanks to the skill of the mechanician, the way had been opened
which led into a new fairyland of science. This was not, like some
fabled Paradise, guarded by mountain fastnesses and precipitous ramparts
of eternal snow; it was not encircled by storm-swept deserts, or
secluded in the furthest recesses of forests, hitherto impenetrable; but
it lay deep in the silent abysses of ocean--on those vast plains, which
are unruffled by the most furious gale, or by the wildest waves. In
these depths, beneath the tremendous pressure of so vast a thickness of
water, and far below the limits at which the existence of life had been
supposed to be possible, numbers of creatures had been discovered--many
of them strange and novel: molluscs, sea-lilies, glassy sponges of
unusual beauty--creatures often of ancient aspect, relics of a fauna
elsewhere extinct; and the ocean floor, on and above which they moved,
was strewn with the white dust of countless coverings of tiny
foraminifera, which, even if none were actually living, had fallen like
a gentle but incessant rain from the overhanging mass of water.

Similar changes were introduced into the twelfth edition of the
"Principles," upon which the author was engaged even up to the last few
weeks of his life. The _Challenger_, it will be remembered, started on
her memorable voyage of exploration at the close of the year in which
the eleventh edition had appeared; and though she did not actually
return till after Lyell's death, notes of some of her most interesting
discoveries had been communicated from time to time to the scientific
journals of this country. The edition, however, was left incomplete. The
first volume had been passed for the press, but the second was still
unfinished; so that this twelfth edition was posthumous, the work of
revision having been finished by the author's nephew and heir, Mr.
Leonard Lyell.

By such conscientious and unremitting labour, the scientific value of
the "Principles" was immensely increased; it kept always in step with
the advance of the science, but at the same time it lost, as was
inevitable, a little of that literary charm and that sense of freshness
which was at first so marked a characteristic. Books, like children, are
apt to lose some of their beauty as they increase in size and strength.
One must compare an early and a late edition, such as the first or third
and the tenth or eleventh, in order to realise how great were the
changes in this passage from childhood to adolescence. New material was
incorporated into every part; it makes its appearance sometimes on every
page; changes are made in the order of the subjects; many chapters are
entirely rewritten; nevertheless, a considerable portion corresponds
almost word for word in the two editions. Lyell was no hurried writer,
or "scamper" of work; he paid great attention to composition, so that
when the facts which he desired to cite had undergone no change, he very
seldom found any to make in his language. Nevertheless, here and there,
some small modification, a slight verbal difference, a trifling
alteration in the order of a sentence, the insertion of a short clause
to secure greater perspicuity, shows to how careful and close a revision
the whole had been subjected. In the substance of the work, besides the
excision of nearly one-third of the material and the complete
reconstruction of the part relating to the antiquity of man and the
origin of species, already mentioned, the following are the most
important changes. The chapters which discuss the evidence in favour of
past mutations of climate and the causes to which these are due, are
rewritten and greatly enlarged. In the earlier editions, the effects of
geographical changes were regarded as sufficient to account for all the
climatal variations that geology requires; in the later editions, the
possible co-operation of astronomical changes is admitted. Great
additions also are made to the parts referring to the condition of the
bed of the ocean, and much new and important information is incorporated
into the sections dealing with volcanoes and earthquakes; including many
valuable observations which had been made during visits to Vesuvius and
to Etna in the autumns of 1857 and 1858. The section on the action of
ice is so altered and enlarged as to be practically new; for when the
first edition of the "Principles" was published comparatively little was
known of the effects of land-ice, and the art of following the trail of
vanished glaciers had yet to be learnt. But, with this exception, the
part of the book dealing with the action of the forces of Nature--heat
and cold, rain, rivers, and sea--remains comparatively unaltered, as do
the first five chapters, which give a sketch of the early history of the
science of geology.

Without some knowledge of this history it is hardly possible to
appreciate the true greatness of the "Principles," and its unique value
as an influence on scientific thought at the time it appeared. This,
however, to some extent may be inferred from those chapters which we
have mentioned; but the perspective of half a century enables us to
understand it better at the present time; for the author, of course, had
to deal with contemporary work and opinion only in a very indirect way.
We may dismiss briefly the crude speculations of the earliest
observers--those anterior to the Christian era--of which the author
gives a summary in the second chapter of the "Principles"; for at that
early date few persons had made any effort to arrange the facts of
Nature in a connected system. These were too scanty and too disconnected
for any such effort to be successful. The general result cannot be
better summed up than in Lyell's own words:--

      "Although no particular investigations had been made for the
      express purpose of interpreting the monuments of ancient
      changes, they were too obvious to be entirely disregarded;
      and the observation of the present course of Nature
      presented too many proofs of alterations continually in
      progress on the earth to allow philosophers to believe that
      Nature was in a state of rest, or that the surface had
      remained and would continue to remain, unaltered. But they
      had never compared attentively the results of the destroying
      and the reproductive operations of modern times with those
      of remote eras; nor had they ever entertained so much as a
      conjecture concerning the comparative antiquity of the human
      race, or of living species of animals and plants, with those
      belonging to former conditions of the organic world. They
      had studied the movements and positions of the heavenly
      bodies with laborious industry, and made some progress in
      investigating the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms;
      but the ancient history of the globe was to them a sealed
      book, and though written in characters of the most striking
      and imposing kind, they were unconscious even of its

The above remarks hold good for the centuries immediately succeeding the
Christian era; and the influence of the new faith, when it ceased to be
persecuted and became a power in the state, was adverse on the whole to
progress in physical or natural science. With the decline of the Roman
empire a great darkness fell upon the civilised world; art, science,
literature withered before the hot breath of war and rapine, as the
northern barbarians swept down upon their enfeebled master on their
errand of destruction. It was well nigh eight centuries from the
Christian era before the spirit of scientific enquiry and the love of
literature began to awaken from their long torpor; and it was then among
people of an Eastern race and an alien creed. The caliphs of Bagdad
encouraged learning, and the students of the East became familiar by
means of translations with the thoughts and questionings of ancient
Greece and Rome. The efforts of their earliest investigators have not
been preserved, but in treatises of the tenth century--written by one
Avicenna, a court physician, the "Formation and Classification of
Minerals" is discussed, as well as the "Cause of Mountains." In the
latter attention is called to the effect of earthquakes, and to the
excavatory action of streams. In the same century also, "Omar the
Learned" wrote a book on "the retreat of the sea," in which he proved by
reference to ancient charts and by other less direct arguments that
changes of importance had occurred in the form of the coast of Asia. But
even among the followers of Mohammed theology declared itself hostile to
science; the Moslem doctors of divinity deemed the pages of the Koran,
not the book of Nature, man's proper sphere of research, and considered
these difficulties ought to be settled by a quotation from the one
rather than by facts from the other. So progress in science was impeded,
and recantations at the bidding of ecclesiastics are not restricted to
the annals of Christian races. But men seem to have gone on speculating,
and Mohammed Kazwini, in a striking allegory which is quoted by Lyell,
tells his readers how (to use the words of Tennyson)[57]:--

    "There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
      O Earth, what changes thou hast seen!
      There, where the long street roars, hath been
    The stillness of the central sea."

In Europe geological phenomena do not appear to have attracted serious
attention till the sixteenth century, when the significance of fossils
became the subject of an animated controversy in Italy. At that epoch
this country held the front rank in learning and the arts, and an
inquiry of that nature arose almost as a matter of course, because the
marls, sands, and soft limestones of its lower districts teem in many
places with shells and other marine organisms in a singular state of
perfection and preservation. It is interesting to remark, that among the
foremost in appealing to inductive processes for the explanation of
these enigmas was that extraordinary and almost universal genius,
Leonardo da Vinci. He ridiculed the current idea that these shells were
formed "by the influence of the stars," calling attention to the mud by
which they were filled, and the gravel beds among which they were
intercalated, as proof that they had once lain upon the bed of the sea
at no great distance from the coast. His induction rested on the
evidence of sections which had been exposed during his construction of
certain navigable canals in the north of Italy. Shortly afterward, the
conclusions of Leonardo were amplified, and strengthened on similar
grounds by Frascatoro. He, however, not only demonstrated the absurdity
of explaining these organic structures by the "plastic force of
Nature"--a favourite refuge for the intellectually destitute of that and
even a later age, but he also showed that they could not even be relics
of the Noachian deluge. "That inundation, he observed, was too
transient; it had consisted principally of fluviatile waters; and if it
had transported shells to great distances, must have strewed them over
the surface, not buried them at vast depths in the interior of
mountains." As Lyell truly remarks, "His clear exposition of the
evidence would have terminated the discussion for ever, if the passions
of man had not been enlisted in the dispute; and even though doubts
should for a time have remained in some minds, they would speedily have
been removed by the fresh information obtained almost immediately
afterwards, respecting the structure of fossil remains, and of their
living analogues." But the difficulties raised by theologians, and the
general preference for deductive over inductive reasoning, greatly
impeded progress. It was not till the methods of the schoolmen yielded
place to those of the natural philosophers that the tide of battle began
to turn, and science to possess the domains from which she had been
unjustly excluded. For about a century the weary war went on; the
philosophers of Italy leading the van, those of England, it must be
admitted, for long lagging behind them, before the spectre of "plastic
force" was finally dismissed to the limbo of exploded hypotheses in
England. For instance, it was seriously maintained by the well-known
writer on county history, Dr. Plot, in the last quarter of the
seventeenth century, though its absurdity had been demonstrated by his
Italian contemporaries; as by Scilla, in his treatise on the fossils of
Calabria, and by Steno, in that on "Gems, crystals, and organic
petrifactions enclosed in solid rocks." The latter had proved by
dissecting a shark recently captured in the Mediterranean, that its
teeth and bones corresponded exactly with similar objects from a fossil
in Tuscany, and that the shells discovered in sundry Italian strata were
identical with living species, except for the loss of their animal
gluten and some slight mineral change. Moreover, he had distinguished,
by means of their organic remains, between deposits of a marine and of a
fluviatile character.

But now, as the "plastic force" dogma lost its hold on the minds of men,
its place was taken by that which regarded all fossils as the relics of
an universal deluge.

      "The theologians who now entered the field in Italy,
      Germany, France, and England, were innumerable; and
      henceforward, they who refused to subscribe to the position
      that all marine organic remains were proofs of the Mosaic
      deluge, were exposed to the imputation of disbelieving the
      whole of the sacred writings. Scarce any step had been made
      in approximating to sound theories since the time of
      Frascatoro, more than a hundred years having been lost in
      writing down the dogma that organised fossils were mere
      sports of Nature. An additional period of a century and a
      half was now destined to be consumed in exploding the
      hypothesis that organised fossils had all been buried in the
      solid strata by Noah's flood."[58]

Into the varying fortunes of this second struggle it is needless to
enter at any length. It was the old conflict between theology and
science in a yet more acute form; the old warfare between deductive and
inductive reasoning; between dogmatic ignorance and an honest search for
truth. Protestants and Romanists alike seemed to claim the gift of
infallibility, with the right to decide _ex cathedrâ_ on questions of
which they were profoundly ignorant, and to pronounce sentence in causes
where they could not even appreciate the evidence. Ecclesiastics
scolded; well-meaning though incompetent laymen echoed their cry; the
more timorous among scientific men wasted their time in devising
elaborate but futile schemes of accommodation between the discoveries of
geology and the supposed revelations of the Scriptures; the stronger
laboured on patiently, gathering evidence, strengthening their arguments
and dissecting the fallacies by which they were assailed, until the
popular prejudice should be allayed and men be calm enough to listen to
the voice of truth. It was a long and weary struggle, which is now
nearly, though not quite, ended; for there are still a few who mistake
for an impregnable rock that which is merely the shifting-sand of
popular opinion, and cannot realise that the province of revelation is
in the spiritual rather than in the material, in the moral rather than
in the scientific order. The outbursts of denunciation aroused by the
assertion of the antiquity of man and the publication of the "Origin of
Species," which many still in the full vigour of their powers can well
remember, were but a recrudescence of the same spirit, a reappearance of
an old foe with a new face.

But when Lyell was young and the idea of the "Principles" began to
germinate in his mind, popular prejudice against the free exercise of
inquiry in geology was still strong; this diluvial hypothesis still
hampered, if it did not fully satisfy, the majority of scientific
workers. Here and there, it is true, some isolated pioneer demonstrated
the impossibility of referring the fossil contents of the earth's crust
to a single deluge, or protested against the singular mixture of actual
observation, patristic quotation, and deductive reasoning which commonly
passed current for geological science. Chief and earliest among these
men, Vallisneri, also an Italian, about a century before Lyell's birth,
was clearsighted enough to see "how much the interests of religion as
well as those of sound philosophy had suffered by perpetually mixing up
the sacred writings with questions in physical science"; indeed, he was
so far advanced as to attempt a general sketch of the marine deposits of
Italy, with their organic remains, and to arrive at the conclusion that
the ocean formerly had extended over the whole earth and after
remaining there for a long time had gradually subsided. This conclusion,
though inadequate as an expression of the truth, was much more
philosophical than that of an universal and comparatively recent deluge.
Moro and Generelli, in the same country, followed the lead of
Vallisneri, in seeking for hypotheses which were consistent with the
facts of Nature, Generelli even arriving at conclusions which, in
effect, were those adopted by Lyell, and have been thus translated by

      "Is it possible that this waste should have continued for
      six thousand and perhaps a greater number of years, and that
      the mountains should remain so great unless their ruins have
      been repaired? Is it credible that the Author of Nature
      should have founded the world upon such laws as that the dry
      land should be for ever growing smaller, and at last become
      wholly submerged beneath the waters? Is it credible that,
      amid so many created things, the mountains alone should
      daily diminish in number and bulk, without there being any
      repair of their losses? This would be contrary to that order
      of Providence which is seen to reign in all other things in
      the universe. Wherefore I deem it just to conclude that the
      same cause which, in the beginning of time, raised mountains
      from the abyss, has down to the present day continued to
      produce others, in order to restore from time to time, the
      losses of all such as sink down in different places, or are
      rent asunder, or in other ways suffer disintegration. If
      this be admitted, we can easily understand why there should
      now be found upon many mountains so great a number of
      crustacea and other marine animals."

This attempt at a system of rational geology was a great advance in the
right direction, though many gaps still remained to be filled up and
some errors to be corrected; such for instance as the idea adopted by
Generelli from Moro, and maintained in other parts of his work, that
all the stratified rocks are derived from volcanic ejections.
Nevertheless, geology, by the middle of the eighteenth century, had
evidently begun to pass gradually, though very slowly, from the stage of
crude and fanciful hypotheses to that of an inductive science. But even
then the observers had only succeeded in setting foot on the lower
slopes of a peak, the summit of which will not be reached, if indeed it
ever be, for many a long year to come. During the next half of the
century progress was made, now in this direction, now in that; slowly
truths were established, slowly errors dispelled; and as the close of
that century approached, the foundations of modern geology began to be
securely laid. A great impulse was given to the work, though to some
extent the apparent help proved to be a real hindrance, by that famous
teacher, Werner of Freiberg, in Saxony. His influence was highly
beneficial, because he insisted not only on a careful study of the
mineral character of rocks, but also on attending to their grouping,
geographical distribution, and general relations. It was hurtful almost
to as great a degree, because he maintained, and succeeded by his
enthusiasm and eloquence in impressing on his disciples, most erroneous
notions as to the origin of basalts and those other igneous rocks which
were formerly comprehended under the name "trap." Such rocks he stoutly
asserted to be chemical precipitates from water, and, besides this, he
held views in general strongly opposed to anything like the action of
uniform causes in the earth's history. In short, the Saxon Professor was
in many respects the exact antithesis of Lyell, and the points of
essential contrast cannot be better indicated than in the words of the

      "If it be true that delivery be the first, second, and third
      requisite in a popular orator, it is no less certain that to
      travel is of first, second, and third importance to those
      who desire to originate just and comprehensive views
      concerning the structure of our globe. Now Werner had not
      travelled to distant countries; he had merely explored a
      small portion of Germany, and conceived, and persuaded
      others to believe, that the whole surface of our planet and
      all the mountain-chains in the world were made after the
      model of his own province. It became a ruling object of
      ambition in the minds of his pupils to confirm the
      generalisations of their great master, and to discover in
      the most distant parts of the globe his 'universal
      formations,' which he supposed had been each in succession
      simultaneously precipitated over the whole earth from a
      common menstruum or chaotic fluid."

These wild generalisations, as Lyell points out, had not even the merit
of being really in accordance with the evidence afforded by some parts
of Saxony itself. Werner, in fact, was a conspicuous example of a
tendency, which perhaps even now is not quite extinct, to work too much
beneath a roof and too little in the open air; to found great
generalisations on the minute results of research in a laboratory,
without subjecting them to actual tests by the study of rocks in the

This error on Werner's part was the less excusable, because, even before
he began to lecture, the true nature of basalts and traps generally had
been recognised by several observers of different nationalities. In the
Hebrides and in Iceland, in the Vicentin and in Auvergne, even in Hesse
and in the Rheingau, proof after proof had been cited, and the evidence
in favour of the "igneous" origin of these rocks had become
irresistible, as one might suppose, within some half dozen years of
Werner's appointment as professor at Freiberg. Faujas, in 1779,
published a description of the volcanoes of the Vivarais and Velay, in
which he showed how the streams of basalt had poured out from craters
which still remain in a perfect state. Desmarest also pointed out that
in Auvergne "first came the most recent volcanoes, which had their
craters still entire and their streams of lava conforming to the level
of the present river courses. He then showed that there were others of
an intermediate epoch, whose craters were nearly effaced, and whose
lavas were less intimately connected with the present valleys; and
lastly, that there were volcanic rocks still more ancient without any
discernible craters or scoriæ, and bearing the closest analogy to rocks
in other parts of Europe, the igneous origin of which was denied by the
school of Freiberg." Desmarest even constructed and published a
geological map of Auvergne, of which Lyell speaks in terms of high
commendation. "They alone who have carefully studied Auvergne, and
traced the different lava streams from their craters to their
termination--the various isolated basaltic cappings--the relation of
some lavas to the present valleys--the absence of such relations in
others--can appreciate the extraordinary fidelity of this elaborate

But before the close of the eighteenth century, two champions had
already stepped into the arena to withstand the Wernerian hypothesis,
which, like a swelling tide, was spreading over Europe, and threatening
to sweep away everything before it. These were James Hutton and William
Smith; the one born north, the other south of the Tweed. From the name
of the former that of his friend and expositor, John Playfair, must
never be separated. They were the Socrates and the Plato of that school
of thought from which modern geology has been developed.[61] To quote
the eloquent words of Sir Archibald Geikie[62]:--

      "On looking back to the beginning of this century we see the
      geologists of Britain divided into two hostile camps, which
      waged against each other a keen and even an embittered
      warfare. On the one hand were the followers of Hutton of
      Edinburgh, called from him the Vulcanists, or Plutonists; on
      the other, the disciples of Werner ... who went by the name
      of Wernerians, or Neptunists.... The Huttonians, who adhered
      to the principles laid down by their great founder,
      maintained, as their fundamental doctrine, that the past
      history of our planet is to be explained by what we can
      learn of the economy of Nature at the present time. Unlike
      the cosmogonists, they did not trouble themselves with what
      was the first condition of the earth, nor try to trace every
      subsequent phase of its history. They held that the
      geological record does not go back to the beginning, and
      that therefore any attempt to trace that beginning from
      geological evidence was vain. Most strongly, too, did they
      protest against the introduction of causes which could not
      be shown to be a part of the present economy. They never
      wearied of insisting that to the everyday workings of air,
      earth, and sea, must be our appeal for an explanation of the
      older revolutions of the globe. The fall of rain, the flow
      of rivers, the slowly crumbling decay of mountain, valley,
      and shore, were one by one summoned as witnesses to bear
      testimony to the manner in which the most stupendous
      geological changes are slowly and silently brought about.
      The waste of the land, which they traced everywhere, was
      found to give birth to soil--renovation of the surface thus
      springing Phoenix-like out of its decay. In the descent of
      water from the clouds to the mountains, and from the
      mountains to the sea, they recognised the power by which
      valleys are carved out of the land, and by which also the
      materials worn from the land are carried out to the sea,
      there to be gathered into solid stone--the framework of new
      continents. In the rocks of the hills and valleys they
      recognised abundantly the traces of old sea-bottoms. They
      stoutly maintained that these old sea-bottoms had been
      raised up into dry land from time to time by the powerful
      action of the same internal heat to which volcanoes owe
      their birth, and they pointed to the way in which granite
      and other crystalline rocks occur as convincing evidence of
      the extent to which the solid earth has been altered and
      upheaved by the action of these subterranean fires."

Such were the leading principles of the "Huttonian theory," though
perhaps they are stated here in a slightly more developed form than when
it was first presented by its illustrious author. But it was defective
in one important respect, on a side from which it might have obtained
the strongest support, and have liberated itself from the bondage of
deluges; in other words, of convulsive action, by which it was still
fettered, for "it took no account of the fossil remains of plants and
animals. Hence it ignored the long succession of life upon the earth
which those remains have since made known, as well as the evidence
thereby obtainable as to the nature and order of physical changes, such
as alternations of sea and land, revolutions of climate, and suchlike."

This defect was supplied by William Smith. He had learnt, by patient
labour among the stratified rocks of England, to recognise their
fossils, had ascertained that certain assemblages of the latter
characterised each group of strata, and by this means had traced such
groups through the country, and had placed them in order of
superposition. So early as 1790, he published a "Tabular View of the
British Strata," and from that time was engaged at every spare moment in
constructing a geological map of England, all the while freely
communicating the results of his researches to his brethren of the
hammer. "The execution of his map was completed in 1815, and it remains
a lasting monument of original talent and extraordinary perseverance;
for he had explored the whole country on foot without the guidance of
previous observers, or the aid of fellow labourers, and had succeeded in
throwing into natural divisions the whole complicated series of British

A most important step in view of future progress, at any rate in our own
country, was taken by the foundation of the Geological Society of London
in 1807, the members of which devoted themselves at first rather to the
collection of facts than to the construction of theories, while in
France the labours of Brongniart and Cuvier in comparative osteology,
and of Lamarck in recent and fossil shells, smoothed the way toward the
downfall of catastrophic geology. Those men, with their disciples,
"raised these departments of study to a rank of which they had never
before been deemed susceptible. Their investigations had eventually a
powerful effect in dispelling the illusion which had long prevailed
concerning the absence of analogy between the ancient and modern state
of our planet. A close comparison of the recent and fossil species, and
the inferences drawn in regard to their habits, accustomed the geologist
to contemplate the earth as having been at successive periods the
dwelling-place of animals and plants of different races--some
terrestrial, and others aquatic; some fitted to live in seas, others in
the waters of lakes and rivers. By the consideration of these topics the
mind was slowly and insensibly withdrawn from imaginary pictures of
catastrophes and chaotic confusion, such as haunted the imagination of
the early cosmogonists. Numerous proofs were discovered of the tranquil
deposition of sedimentary matter, and the slow development of organic

Such was the earlier history of Geology; such were the influences which
had moulded its ideas till within a few years of the date when Lyell
began to make it a subject of serious study. At that time, namely about
the year 1820, the Geological Society of London had become the centre
and meeting-point of a band of earnest and enthusiastic workers, whose
names will always hold an honoured place in the annals of the Science.
Among the older members--most of whom, however, were still in the prime
of life, were such men as Buckland, Conybeare, Fitton, Greenough,
Horner, MacCulloch, Warburton and Wollaston; among the younger, De la
Beche and Scrope, Sedgwick and Whewell. Murchison, though a few years
Lyell's senior, was by almost as many his junior as a geologist, for he
did not join the Society till the end of 1824, and was actually admitted
on the evening when Lyell, then one of its honorary secretaries, read
his first paper--on the marl-lake at Kinnordy. Such men also as
Babbage, Herschel, Warburton, Sir Philip Egerton, the Earl of
Enniskillen (then Viscount Cole), must not be forgotten, who were either
less frequent visitors or more directly devoted to other studies. At
this time geology was passing into a phase which endured for some forty
years--the exaltation of the palæontological, the depreciation of the
mineralogical side. If it be true, as it has been more than once
remarked, that the father of the geologist was a mineralogist, it is no
less true that his mother was a palæontologist; but at this particular
epoch the paternal influence obviously declined, while that of the
mother became inordinately strong. Wollaston and MacCulloch, indeed,
were geologists of the old school; excellent mineralogists and
petrologists (to use the more modern term) as accurate as it was
possible to be with the appliances at their disposal, but among the
younger men De la Beche, accompanied to a certain extent by Scrope and
Sedgwick, was almost alone in following their lead. But although
palæontology and stratigraphical geology as its associate were clearly
making progress, the school of thought, of which Lyell became the
champion, counted at this time but few adherents, for the older
geologists were almost to a man "catastrophists." A few, like
MacCulloch, undervalued palæontological research, and thus were doubly
prejudiced against the uniformitarian views. Buckland, Conybeare,
Greenough, as we have already seen from incidental remarks in Lyell's
letters, had put their trust in deluges, and imagined that by such an
agency the earth had been prepared for a new creation of living things
and a new group of geological formations. Sedgwick even was to a great
extent on their side. He had speedily emerged from the waters of
Wernerism, in which at first he had been for a short time immersed, but
he did not escape so easily from the roaring floods of diluvialists, and
the grandeur of catastrophic changes in the crust of the earth
fascinated his enthusiastic, almost poetic, nature. Even so late as
1830, we find him criticising from the chair of the Geological Society
the leading argument of Lyell's "Principles of Geology" in no friendly
spirit, and bestowing high praise on Elie de Beaumont's theory of
Parallel Mountain-chains.

A brief summary of the views advocated by this eminent French geologist
may serve to indicate, perhaps better than any general statements, the
influences against which Lyell had to contend at the outset of his
career as a geologist. With the omission of certain parts, to which no
exception would be taken, or which have no very direct bearing upon the
immediate question, they are as follows[65]: (1) In the history of the
earth there have been long periods of comparative repose, during which
the sedimentary strata have been continuously deposited, and short
periods of paroxysmal violence, during which that continuity has been
interrupted. (2) At each of these periods of violence or revolution in
the state of the earth's surface, a great number of mountain-chains have
been formed suddenly, and these chains, if contemporaneous, are
parallel; but if not so, generally differ in direction. (3) Each
revolution or great convulsion has coincided with the date of another
geological phenomenon, namely, the passage from one independent
sedimentary formation to another, characterised by a considerable
difference in "organic types." (4) There has been a recurrence of these
paroxysmal movements from the remotest geological periods; and they may
still be produced.

Thus the force of authority, which has to be reckoned with in geology,
if not in other branches of science, was in the main adverse to Lyell,
who could count on but few to join him in his attack on catastrophism.
One indeed there was, a host in himself, who, though his contemporary in
years, had devoted himself wholly to geology at a slightly earlier date
and had already become convinced, by his field-work in Italy and France,
of the efficacy of existing forces to work mighty changes, if time were
given, in the configuration of the earth's surface. This was George
Poulett Scrope, a man of broad culture, great talents, and singular
independence of thought, who had convinced himself of the errors of the
Wernerian theory by his studies in Italy in the years 1817-19, and had
thoroughly explored the volcanic district of Auvergne in 1821. His work
on the Phenomena of Volcanoes, published in 1823, and that on the
Geology of Central France, published in 1826, had given the _coup de
grace_ to Werner's hypothesis and had made the first breach in the
fortress of the catastrophists.

For a complete solution of the problem to which Lyell had addressed
himself, two methods of investigation were necessary. It must be
demonstrated that in tracing back the life history of the earth from the
present age to a comparatively remote past no breach of continuity
could be detected, and that the forces which were still engaged in
sculpturing and modifying this earth's surface were adequate, given time
enough, to produce all those changes to which the catastrophist appealed
as proofs of his hypotheses. To establish the one conclusion, it was
necessary to make a careful study of the Tertiary formations, which were
still in a condition of comparative confusion; to arrange them in an
order no less clear and definite than that of the Secondary systems; and
to show, by working downward from the present fauna, not only that many
living species had been long in existence, but also that these had
appeared gradually, not simultaneously, and had in like manner replaced
forms which had one after another vanished--to prove, in short, "that
past and present are bound together by an unsevered cord of life, whose
interlacing strands carry us back in orderly change from age to age." To
establish the other conclusion it was necessary to show that, even in
historical times, considerable changes had occurred in the outlines of
coasts, and that heat and cold, the sea, or rain and rivers--especially
the last--had been agents of the utmost importance in the sculpture of
cliffs, valleys, and hills. For both these purposes careful study, not
only in Britain, but also still more in other regions, was absolutely
necessary, and it was with them in view that Lyell undertook his
journeys, from the time when his geological ideas began to assume a
definite shape until the last volume of the "Principles" was published.
By that date, as has been stated in the preceding chapters, he had made
himself familiar in the course of his geological education with many
parts of Britain, had laboriously investigated the more important
collections and museums of France and Italy, and had carefully studied
in the field the principal Tertiary deposits not only in these countries
but also in Sicily and in parts of Switzerland and Germany. To obtain
evidence bearing on the physical aspect of the question on a scale
grander than was afforded by the undulating lowlands, or worn-down
highland regions of Britain and the neighbouring parts of Europe, he had
rambled among the Alps and Pyrenees, examining their peaks and
precipices, their snowfields, glaciers, lakes, and torrents, and
watching the processes of destruction, transportation, and deposition of
which crag, stream, and plain afford a never-ending object-lesson. In
order to study volcanoes still in activity, he had climbed Vesuvius and
Etna; in order to scrutinise more minutely the structure of cones,
craters, and lava streams, he had visited Auvergne, Catalonia, and the
Eifel; while in all his goings and comings through scenes where Nature
worked more unobtrusively, he had watched her never-ending toil, as she
destroyed with the one hand and built with the other. He was thus able
to write with the authority of one who has seen, not of one who merely
quotes; of one who knew, not of one who had learnt by rote. The
"Principles of Geology," though of course it had to rely not seldom on
the work of others, bore the stamp of the author's experience, and was
redolent, not of the dust of libraries, but of the sweetness of the open
air. That fact added no little force to its cautious and clear inductive
reasoning; that fact did much to disarm opposition, and to open the way
to victory.


[55] Strictly speaking, fifteen out of the last sixteen chapters, for
the final one (dealing with coral reefs) is substantially a reprint.

[56] "Principles of Geology," vol. i. p. 26 (eleventh edition).

[57] _In Memoriam_, cxxiii.

[58] "Principles of Geology," chap. iii. p. 37.

[59] "Principles of Geology," chap. iv.

[60] "Principles of Geology," chap. iv.

[61] Hutton's "Theory of the Earth" was first published in 1788, and in
an enlarged form in 1795. Playfair's "Illustrations of the Huttonian
Theory" appeared in the spring of 1802.

[62] Geikie's "Life of Murchison," chap. vii.

[63] "Principles of Geology," chap. iv.

[64] "Principles of Geology," chap. iv.

[65] Abridged from Lyell's summary: "Principles of Geology," chap. vii.



Both courses of lectures ended[66] and the third volume of the
"Principles" successfully launched, Mr. and Mrs. Lyell left London in
June, 1833, for another Continental tour. During their first halt, at
Paris, she was duly introduced to the famous quarries of Montmartre, and
had an opportunity of "collecting a fossil shell or two for the first
time." Thence they made their way to Bonn, which she had left as a bride
the previous summer, and, after another short halt, proceeded up the
gorge of the Rhine to Bingen, visiting on the way the ironworks at Sayn,
and examining the stratified volcanic deposits on the plain between the
river and that town. The Tertiary basin at Mayence was next visited, and
from it they went leisurely to Heidelberg. From the picturesque old town
by the Neckar they struck off to Stuttgart and to Pappenheim, examining
one or two collections at the former place, and the quarries of
Solenhofen, near the latter. These were already noted for the abundant
and well-preserved fossils obtained in the quarries worked for the
well-known "lithographic stone," though the famous Archæopteryx had yet
to be found; that strange creature, feathered and like a bird, but with
teeth in its beak and a tail like a reptile, which has supplied such an
important link in the chain of evidence in favour of progressive
development. Thence they travelled to Nürnberg and Bayreuth, visiting
on their way the noted caves at Muggendorf, and returned to Bonn by way
of Bamberg, Würtzburg, Aschaffenberg, and Frankfurt. In this journey,
few localities of special interest were investigated, but, as Lyell's
letters show, no opportunity was lost of discussing important questions
with local geologists, or of examining sections in the field. But on the
way back to England through Belgium a halt was made at Liége, to inspect
Dr. Schmerling's grand collection of cave-remains. It is evident, though
but a short notice of it has been preserved, that this visit kindled an
enthusiasm which was to produce important results in later years. Lyell
writes (to Mantell, after his return to England):--

      "I saw at Liége the collection of Dr. Schmerling, who in
      three years has, by his own exertion and the incessant
      labours of a clever amateur servant, cleared out some twenty
      caves untouched by any previous searcher, and has filled a
      truly splendid museum. He numbers already thrice the number
      of fossil cavern mammalia known when Buckland wrote his
      'Idola Specus'; and such is the prodigious number of the
      individuals of some species--the bears, for example, of
      which he has five species, one large, one new--that several
      entire skeletons will be constructed. Oh, that the Lewes
      chalk had been cavernous! And he has these, and a number of
      yet unexplored and shortly to be investigated holes, all to
      himself: but envy him not--you cannot imagine what he feels
      at being far from a metropolis which can afford him
      sympathy; and having not one congenial soul at Liége, and
      none who take any interest in his discoveries save the
      priests--and what kind _they_ take you may guess, more
      especially as he has found human remains in breccia,
      embedded with the extinct species, under circumstances far
      more difficult to get over than any I have previously heard
      of. The _three_ coats or layers of stalagmite cited by me at
      Choquier are quite true."[67]

Very probably among these human relics was one which was destined to
become famous--the skull found in the cave at Engis--for this was
described by Dr. Schmerling in his "Recherches sur les ossements
fossiles découverts dans les cavernes de la Province de Liége," a book
published in 1833. It was found at a depth of nearly five feet, hidden
under an osseous breccia, composed of the remains of small animals, and
containing one rhinoceros tusk with several teeth of horses and of
ruminants. The earth in which it was lying did not show the slightest
trace of disturbance, and teeth of rhinoceros, horse, hyæna, and bear
surrounded it on all sides.[68] This relic proved--and since then
numbers of similar cases have been discovered--that if the man of Engis
were an antediluvian, and his corpse had been washed into the cave
together with the drowned bodies of rhinoceros, and other animals,[69]
that event, at any rate, must have corresponded with a great change in
the habits of the larger mammalia, for they had been unable to return to
haunts which once had been congenial. In other words, the foundation was
being laid, now in 1833, for the next great advance in geological
science, the contemporaneity of man and several extinct species of
mammals, indicating, of course, the antiquity of the human race. To this
point, however, public attention was not directed for nearly twenty
years. Then various causes, especially an examination into the evidence
discovered in the neighbourhood of Abbeville and Amiens by M. Boucher
de Perthes, brought the question to the front. But though the
controversy was sharp and bitter for a time, it was speedily over, and
the question which is still agitated--though mildly and in a sense
wholly scientific--is whether man appeared in this part of Europe and in
corresponding regions of North America, before, during, or after the
glacial epoch?

But the Engis skull is a relic exceptionally interesting. Though the
handiwork of primæval man is common enough--rudely chipped instruments
or weapons of flint or other stone, worked portions of bones and
antlers, and such like--yet his bones are far less common than those of
other mammals, and, most of all, skulls are rare. Professor Huxley, in
his work from which we have already quoted, states that Dr. Schmerling
found a bone implement in the Engis cave, and worked flints in all the
ossiferous Belgian caves, yet this was the only skull in anything like a
perfect condition, though another cavern furnished two fragments of
parietal bones. Yet from the latter numerous bones of the extremities
were obtained, and these had belonged to three individuals. What
inferences, then, can be drawn from this skull as to the intellectual
rank of primæval man? This question was discussed by its discoverer, and
the evidence has been also considered by Professor Huxley. The former
thus expressed his opinion, "that this cranium has belonged to a person
of limited intellectual faculties, and we conclude thence that it
belonged to a man of a low degree of civilisation; a deduction which is
borne out by contrasting the capacity of the frontal with that of the
occipital region." Professor Huxley sums up a careful discussion of the
evidence, in which he calls special attention to points where it happens
to be defective, by stating that the specimen agrees in certain respects
with Australian skulls, in others with some European, but that he can
find in the remains no character which, if it were a recent skull, would
give any trustworthy clue to the race to which it might appertain.
"Assuredly there is no mark of degradation about any part of its
structure. It is, in fact, a fair average human skull, which might have
belonged to a philosopher, or might have contained the thoughtless
brains of a savage."[70]

The winter of 1833 and the spring of the following year were spent in
London. It was evidently a busy, though uneventful, time: a new edition
of the "Principles" was being prepared and printed, a paper read to the
Geological Society on a freshwater formation at Cerdagne in the
Pyrenees, and information collected for a summer's journey. This was to
be in a new direction--to Scandinavia--with the more especial intent of
studying the evidence on which it has been asserted that the shores of
the Baltic had changed their level within recent times. But on this
occasion Mrs. Lyell remained at home, as the travelling might
occasionally have been too rough for her so we find, in a journal
written for her perusal, a full sketch of a tour which proved, as he had
anticipated, to be fruitful in scientific results. His first halt was at
Hamburg, where, on his arrival, with characteristic energy he dashed off
at once in a carriage to examine a section below Altona which he had
marked down on his voyage up the Elbe. This is his brief summary:
"Cliffs sixty or seventy feet high. Filled three pages of note-book. Saw
the source of the great Holstein granite blocks. Gathered shells thrown
ashore by the Elbe." From Hamburg he drove to Lübeck, along one of the
worst of roads. The primary cause of its badness was geological--a loose
sand interspersed with granite boulders; the secondary, the royal
revenues; for these largely depended on the tolls paid by vessels on
entering the sound, and if a good road had connected the two towns much
merchandise would have gone overland, to the king's loss. At Lübeck
Lyell for the first time stood upon the shore of the Baltic, and
utilised the half-hour before his steamer started for Copenhagen by
hunting for shells. As a reward, he found a well-known freshwater genus
(_Paludina_) among common marine forms.[71]

From Copenhagen a rapid journey in Seeland and to Möen introduced him to
a number of interesting Sections of the drift, accounts of which were
afterwards worked into his books, and showed him at Faxoe and elsewhere
limestones overlying the upper chalk, like those at Maestricht in
Holland, and at Meudon near Paris. All these limestones possess an
exceptional interest, for they contain a mixture of Secondary with
Tertiary fossils, and thus help to fill up the wide gap between these
two great divisions in Britain and the adjacent parts of Europe. On his
return to Copenhagen Lyell was very kindly received by the Crown Prince,
who was an ardent naturalist, and allowed him to examine a fine
collection of minerals and fossils accumulated by himself.

After crossing the Sound to Malmö, Lyell spent about a fortnight in
driving along an inland route through the southern part of Sweden to
Norrköping, while a halt at Lund afforded the opportunity of pleasant
talks with the professors of the University, and of seeing some
formations of which hitherto he had not had much experience. The terms
in which he refers to these indirectly proves what strides geology has
taken in the last sixty years. "We made an excursion together through a
country of greywacke with orthoceratite limestone and schist,[72]
containing a curious zoophyte called graptolite in great abundance, and
a few shells." On the journey also he found much to interest a
geologist--boulders almost everywhere, some of huge size, lying on the
surface or scattered in the sand in one place an outcrop of Cretaceous
greensand, full of belemnites, which were popularly regarded as
"witches' candles." Then over a picturesque granite region--"a country
of rock, fir-wood, and peasants"--till he arrived at Norrköping, and
made his way in a steamer down one fjord and up another until he came
into the Malar Lake. These last stages introduced him to a kind of
scenery of which Scandinavia affords such striking and innumerable
examples--the margin of a submerged mountain land. "We entered," he
says, "a passage between an endless string of islets and the mainland,
the water here smooth as a millpond. We passed swiftly on in deep water
close to the rocks, on the barest of which are a few firs in the clefts.
These are evidently the summits of submarine mountains." At Stockholm he
found plenty to be done. Some of the evidence, which had been brought
forward to prove a rising of the land, was obviously weak. For instance,
on one of his first visits to a place where the upward movement was said
to be comparatively rapid, he found a fine oak-tree, perhaps a couple of
centuries old, growing eight feet above high-water mark, and thus
indicating either that oak-trees had recently changed their habits or
that the change of level had been slow. "In dealing with this question
it is necessary," he writes, "to cross-examine both nature and man. The
testimony of the former is strong; of the latter, I must say, so weak
and contradictory that I require to know the men and find how they got
their views." A valuable precaution this, which might be remembered with
advantage in days when stay-at-home geologists are far too numerous. If
this were done, the paper currency of the science would be considerably
reduced in quantity, and there would be a closer correspondence between
its real and its nominal value. A little scepticism was certainly
justifiable, for one would-be _savant_ stood him out "that a bed of
_Cardium edule_ (the common cockle) 100 feet high proves that the _fresh
water_ of Lake Malar was once that much higher." Lyell adds nothing to
this remark, but his silence is eloquent.

This expedition, however--to Södertelje--gave results yet more striking
than marine shells 100 feet above the present level of the Baltic. "What
think you," he writes, "of ships in the same formation, nay, a _house_?
It is as true as the Temple of Serapis.[73] I do not mean that I
discovered all this, but I shall be the first to give a geological
account of it. I am in high spirits at the prize." Upsala also, to which
he next moved, increased his stores of knowledge and of fossils. "I went
to the hill, a hundred feet high, on which the tower stands, to examine
marine shells. All of Baltic species. You remember that in the half-hour
between the two steamboats at Lübeck, or rather Travemunde, I collected
shells by the quay. Not one fossil have I found newer than the chalk in
Sweden, that was not in the number of those found living in that
half-hour." More localities for shells were visited, erratics were
examined, and pilots were questioned closely "about the agency of ice,
in which they believe." With their opinion Lyell inclined to agree; at
any rate, he was convinced that his observations would "quite overset
the _débâcle_ theory," and, as he expected, "bring in ice carriage as
the cause." On the coast further north at Oregrund and Gefle,
bench-marks had been cut some years previously in order to apply a more
exact test to the question of the change in levels. These he visited,
and the former seemed to prove "as Galileo said in a different sense,
that 'the earth moves.'" The marks near Gefle afforded similar
testimony, so that he felt now that the main object of his journey was
accomplished, and inserted this pregnant note in his journal:--"I feel
now what I was very sensible of when correcting my last edition,[74]
that I was not justified in writing any more until I had done all in my
power to ascertain the truth in regard to the 'great northern
phenomenon,' as the gradual rise of part of Sweden has been very
naturally called. You will see by-and-by how important a point it was,
and how materially it will modify my mode of treating the science, and
how much it will advance the theory of the agency of existing causes as
a key to explain geological phenomena."[75]

But the work at sea-marks was not yet quite ended, and there was besides
another classic spot to be visited--Uddevalla, between Lake Werner and
the western coast. Here are deposits in which sea-shells are abundant at
a height of about two hundred feet above the sea. Nothing but a
submergence can account for their presence, for polyzoa and barnacles
are found attached to the solid rock. Some of the latter, adhering to
the gneiss, were collected by Lyell on this occasion.[76]

Fossil shells (of existing species) were so numerous that, he says, the
deposit was worked for making lime, and he compares it with a well-known
bed in the Tertiaries of the Paris Basin. The shells, however, at
Uddevalla, as he points out, are not of that brackish-water character
peculiar to the Baltic, but such as now live in the Northern Ocean.[77]
On reaching the coast he made an expedition by boat, and saw the
bench-mark at Gullholmen, and rocks which had emerged from the sea
within the memory of people still living. Here, by way of completing his
work, he "hired the services of a smith to make a mark at the water's

    C. 18. L.
   18. 7. 34."

So he brought his journey in Scandinavia to a close, and by the end of
July had reached Kinnordy, where Mrs. Lyell awaited his coming. Then he
set to work to prepare a brief sketch of his investigations for the
approaching meeting of the British Association in Edinburgh, and a more
elaborate paper, to be communicated to the Royal Society in London, in
which he set forth the reasons which had convinced him that in Sweden,
"both on the Baltic and ocean side, part of that country is really
undergoing a gradual and insensibly slow rise." It affects an area
measuring about one thousand miles north and south, and is believed to
reach a maximum at the North Cape. There it is said, but the statement
needs verification, to amount to five feet in a century; at Gefle,
ninety miles north of Stockholm, it cannot be more than two or three
feet in the same time; while at Stockholm itself it can hardly exceed
six inches. Further south, in Scania proper, as at Malmö, Skanör,
Trelleborg, and Ystad, the movement is distinctly in an opposite

This paper was afterwards accepted by the Royal Society as the Bakerian
lecture for the year. But the preparation of this was not Lyell's only
occupation. In October he had begun fossil ichthyology, was attending
lectures in chemistry, and "had made some progress," as he writes to
Mantell, "in a single volume which two years ago I promised Murray, a
purely elementary work for beginners in geology, and which I find more
agreeable work than I had expected." So his hands were pretty full. A
pleasant surprise came in the closing months of the year, namely the
award of one of the Royal Medals by that Society in acknowledgment of
the merits of his "Principles of Geology."

In the earlier part of 1835 Lyell accepted the presidency of the
Geological Society, an office which, it will be remembered, he had
virtually refused a couple of years before, when he was busy with his
great book. With this exception, nothing worthy of record appears to
have happened in the first six months of the year, but in July Mrs.
Lyell and he left England for a journey to France, Germany, and
Switzerland. By that date, as he mentions in a letter to a friend, 1,750
copies of the last edition of the "Principles" had been sold, a demand
that puts him in good heart as to the future of the book, and proves
that his labours on it had not been in vain. But he did not permit
himself to be idle. As a letter written to Sedgwick from Paris shows, he
was still working away at the classification of the Tertiary deposits;
for in this letter he discusses the relation of the coralline and the
red, or shelly Crag of Suffolk. Mr. Charlesworth, subsequently well
known as a collector, had been obtaining a number of fossil shells from
the former deposit, and the character of these suggested that it was
distinctly the older of the two, as is now universally admitted. In
discussing this question Lyell lays down a principle of classification
the soundness of which has been proved by experience, namely, that the
age of a Tertiary deposit is to be determined by the proportion of
recent species and the relation of these to the forms still living in
the neighbouring seas. If, for instance, the recent shells in a
formation, amounting to one-half, or even as few as one-third, of the
total number can be thus found, the formation will be Pliocene in age,
"while the recent shells of the Miocene have a more exotic and tropical
form." To this conclusion he had been led, by an examination, with the
help of Deshayes, of a typical collection of Crag fossils which he had
carried with him to Paris. As to other matters, the leading French
geologists were still warring vigorously in defence of deluges, and none
of his numerous heresies, he remarks, appears "to have excited so much
honest indignation as his recent attempt to convey some of the huge
Scandinavian blocks to their present destination by means of ice." He
had proved, he reminds Sedgwick, that "some of the great blocks near
Upsala must have travelled to their present destination since the Baltic
was a brackish water sea, so that those who maintain that there was one,
and one only, rush of water, which scattered all the blocks of Sweden
and the Alps, must make out this catastrophe to be, as it were, an
affair of yesterday." Geology, even at that date, had advanced far
enough for this admission to have landed the diluvialists in some
awkward dilemmas, to say nothing of the physical difficulties which they
would find in accounting for the existence of waves or currents potent
enough to bowl the _Pierre à bot_ from the aiguilles round the Trient
glacier to the slopes of the Jura, or to fling the erratics of
Scandinavia broadcast over the lowlands around the Baltic. This,
however, was not the only lost cause over which the French geologists
were holding their shield. Lyell goes on to write, with a touch of quiet
sarcasm: "As to the elevation crater business, Von Buch, de Beaumont,
and Dufresnoy are to write and prove that Somma and Etna are elevation
craters, and Von Buch himself has just gone to Auvergne to prove that
Mont Dore is one also."

Lyell's special intention in visiting the Alps was to obtain evidence as
to the relation of the metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Geologists of
the Wernerian School, with sundry others who hardly went so far as the
Freiberg professor, maintained that the crystalline schists, including
gneiss, had been produced, often as precipitates, in a primæval ocean,
the waters of which were far too hot to allow of the existence of life.
At a later time, as the temperature fell, the great masses of slightly
altered slates and grits were deposited--the region of "greywacke," the
transitional rocks as they were commonly called. These for the most part
were unfossiliferous, at any rate in their earliest stages. To this
view, of course, the Huttonian dictum, which Lyell sought to establish,
was diametrically opposed, viz. that the earth showed no signs of a
beginning. Now he had been informed that in the Alps certain slaty rocks
contained fossils which indicated an age corresponding generally with
the chalk of England, and that in other parts of that chain even
crystalline schists could be found interbedded with fossiliferous strata
of Secondary age. To settle the former question he intended to visit the
famous quarries of Glarus, but was ultimately compelled to leave this
for another year, as he took the latter point first in order of time,
and the investigation of it involved more work than he had anticipated.
In regard to this, the most important sections were to be found on the
precipitous northern slopes of the Jungfrau and in the upper part of the
Urbach-thal, a lonely glen which descends into the main valley of the
Aar at Imhof, above Meyringen. In both these localities gneiss appears
to overlie "fossiliferous limestone," and Lyell, after visiting them,
returned satisfied that he had seen "alternations of the gneiss with
limestone of the lias or something newer in the highest regions of the
Alps." That undoubtedly he saw, but he did not suspect that the
appearance was illusory. This was not in the least surprising; the Alps
were still almost a terra incognita; the processes of "mountain making"
as yet were unknown; many statements in common currency as to the
passage of sedimentary into crystalline rocks were erroneous and
distinctly misleading. Only by degrees was it discovered that this
superposition of gneiss or crystalline schist to Secondary rock was due
to folding on a scale so gigantic that the older had been doubled over
upon the younger rock and the apparent order of succession was the
converse of the true one. The intercalation also of the gneiss and the
Jurassic limestone was a result of a similar action, but carried, if
possible, to an even greater extreme, for here the hard gneiss had been
thrust in wedge-like slabs between the softer masses of sedimentary
rock, like a paper-knife between the leaves of a book; that is to say,
the gneiss and crystalline schists in both cases were vastly more
ancient than the fossiliferous limestone. It is only of late years that
this startling fact has been established beyond question; and even now
there are many geologists who do not appear to recognise how seriously
the Huttonian _dictum_ "there is no sign of a beginning" has been shaken
by the collapse of this evidence. At the present time the question is in
this position; all the attempts to prove crystalline schists to be of
the same age as, or younger than, fossiliferous sedimentary rocks either
have been complete failures or have proved to be very dubious, while in
many cases these schists are demonstrably earlier than the oldest rocks
of the district to which a date can be assigned. Hence, though possibly
it may turn out that the disciples of Hutton were right, and that, as
Lyell thought, a metamorphic rock may be of almost any geological age,
his hypothesis not only is unproved, but also the evidence which has
been brought forward in its favour has turned out after a strict
scrutiny to be exceedingly dubious, if not absolutely contrary. In
regard to this question we may feel a little surprise that one
difficulty did not occur to Lyell's sceptical mind, namely: what could
be the nature and cause of a process of metamorphism which could convert
one sediment into a crystalline schist--changed practically past
recognition--and leave its neighbour so far unaltered that its
characteristic fossils could be readily recognised?

But though he was unable to investigate the question of Secondary or
perhaps early Tertiary fossils in the "transition"-like rock of Glarus,
his study of the sedimentary deposits of the Bernese Oberland, which had
formed a necessary preliminary to the other inquiry, raised some
difficulties in his mind as to the origin of slaty cleavage. At a
meeting of the Geological Society in the month of March, Professor
Sedgwick had read his classic paper[79] on this subject, in which he
established the independence of cleavage and bedding. This paper laid
the foundation for the discovery of the true cause of the former
structure, though its author was unable, with the information then at
his command, to do more than suggest an hypothesis, which afterwards
proved to be incorrect. He had shown that both the strike and the dip of
cleavage-planes were persistent over large areas, and that while the one
might gradually change its direction and the other its angle of
inclination, if they were followed far enough, yet this angle usually
remained unaltered for considerable distances, and appeared to be quite
unaffected by any variation in the slope of the strata. From these
observations it followed that the planes of cleavage ought not to be
coincident with those of bedding. Lyell, however, writes to tell

      "I found the cleavage or slaty structure of fine drawing
      slate in the great quarry of the Niesen, on the east [south]
      side of the Lake of Thun, quite coincided with the dip of
      the strata ascertained by alternate beds of greywacke.... As
      it is the best description of drawing slate, and as
      divisible almost as mica into thin plates, I cannot make out
      how to distinguish such a structure from any which can be
      called slaty, and such an attempt would, I fear, involve the
      subject in great confusion."

The observation was perfectly correct, and many like instances could be
found in the Alps; nevertheless, Sedgwick was right in his
generalisation, and the two structures are perfectly independent, though
the difficulty raised by Lyell did not disappear till the true cause of
slaty cleavage was recognised--viz. that it is a result of pressure.
Thus, in a region like the Alps, where the strata often have been so
completely folded as to be bent, so to say, back to back, the planes of
cleavage, which are produced when the rocks can no longer yield to the
pressure by bending, necessarily coincide with those of bedding. Still,
even in these cases, if careful search be made in the vicinity, some
minor flexure generally betrays the secret, and exhibits the cleavage
structure cutting across that of bedding.

The next year, 1836, flowed on, like the last, quietly and uneventfully;
a fifth edition of the "Principles" was passing through the press; the
"Elements of Geology" was making progress, though slowly; and Lyell's
duties as President of the Geological Society, which involved the
delivery of an address in the month of February and the preparation of
another one for the same season in the following year, occupied a good
deal of his time. The summer was spent in a long visit to his parents at
Kinnordy, after which he and Mrs. Lyell made some stay in the Isle of
Arran before they returned to London. The latter seemingly had been
rather out of health, and this may have been the reason why a longer
journey was not undertaken, but she must have found the Scotch air a
complete restorative, for after her return to London in the autumn Lyell
writes to his father that "everyone is much struck with the improvement
in Mary's health and appearance."

But one letter, of the few which have been preserved from those written
in 1836, possesses a special interest, for it expresses his ideas, at
this epoch, in regard to the question of the origin of species, and
indicates his freedom from prejudice and the openness of his mind. It is
addressed to Sir John Herschel, then engaged in his memorable
investigations at the Cape of Good Hope, who had favoured him with some
valuable comments and criticisms on the Principles of Geology, and in
the course of these had corrected a mistake which Lyell had made in
regard to a rather difficult physical question. In referring to this,
the latter remarks that the clearness of the mathematical reasoning (to
quote his words) "made me regret that I had not given some of the years
which I devoted to Greek plays and Aristotle at Oxford, and afterwards
to law and other desultory pursuits, to mathematics." Doubtless there is
hardly any better foundation for geology than a course of mathematics;
at the same time, classical studies did much to give Lyell his lucidity
and elegance of style, and thus to ensure the success of the "Principles
of Geology."

It will be best to give Lyell's own words, for the document forms an
appendix or lengthy postscript. As is incidentally mentioned, it was not
in his own handwriting,[81] and thus probably was drawn up with rather
more than usual care.

      "In regard to the origination of new species, I am very glad
      to find that you think it probable it may be carried on
      through the intervention of intermediate causes. I left this
      rather to be inferred, not thinking it worth while to offend
      a certain class of persons by embodying in words what would
      only be a speculation.... When I first came to the
      notion--which I never saw expressed elsewhere, though I have
      no doubt it had all been thought out before--of a succession
      of extinction of species, and creation of new ones, going on
      perpetually now, and through an indefinite period of the
      past, and to continue for ages to come, all in accommodation
      to the changes which must continue in the inanimate and
      habitable earth, the idea struck me as the grandest which I
      had ever conceived, so far as regards the attributes of the
      Presiding Mind. For one can in imagination summon before us
      a small part[82] at least of the circumstances which must be
      contemplated and foreknown, before it can be decided what
      powers and qualities a new species must have in order to
      enable it to endure for a given time, and to play its part
      in due relation to all other beings destined to coexist with
      it, before it dies out. It might be necessary, perhaps, to
      be able to know the number by which each species would be
      represented in a given region 10,000 years hence, as much as
      for Babbage to find what would be the place of every wheel
      in his new calculating machine at each movement.

      "It may be seen that unless some slight additional
      precaution be taken, the species about to be born would at a
      certain era be reduced to too low a number. There may be a
      thousand modes of ensuring its duration beyond that time;
      one, for example, may be the rendering it more prolific, but
      this would perhaps make it press too hard upon other species
      at other times. Now, if it be an insect it may be made in
      one of its transformations to resemble a dead stick, or a
      lichen, or a stone, so as to be less easily found by its
      enemies; or if this would make it too strong, an occasional
      variety of the species may have this advantage conferred
      upon it; or if this would be still too much, one sex of a
      certain variety. Probably there is scarcely a dash of colour
      on the wing or body, of which the choice would be quite
      arbitrary, or what might not affect its duration for
      thousands of years. I have been told that the leaf-like
      expansions of the abdomen and thighs of a certain Brazilian
      Mantis turn from green to yellow as autumn advances,
      together with the leaves of the plants among which it seeks
      for its prey. Now if species come in in succession, such
      contrivances must sometimes be made, and such relations
      predetermined between species, as the Mantis for example,
      and plants not then existing, but which it was foreseen
      would exist together with some particular climate at a given
      time. But I cannot do justice to this train of speculation
      in a letter, and will only say that it seems to me to offer
      a more beautiful subject for reasoning and reflecting on,
      than the notion of great batches of species all coming in,
      and afterwards going out at once."

Early in October Charles Darwin, for whose return from his noted voyage
on the _Beagle_ Lyell had more than once expressed an earnest desire,
arrived in England, bringing with him a large collection of specimens
and almost innumerable facts, geological and biological, the fruits of
his travels. The biological observations slowly ripened in Darwin's mind
till they had for their final result the "Origin of Species." The
geological stirred Lyell to immediate enthusiasm, for they afforded a
valuable support to some of the ideas which he had put forward to the
"Principles." "The idea of the Pampas going up," he writes to Darwin,
"at the rate of an inch a century, while the Western Coast and Andes
rise many feet and unequally, has long been a dream of mine. What a
splendid field you have to write upon!" The enthusiasm evidently was not
confined to words, for Darwin himself says in writing to Professor
Henslow, "Mr. Lyell has entered in the most good-natured manner, and
almost without being asked, into all my plans."[83] The letter to
Darwin,[84] which is quoted above, also contains a characteristic piece
of advice.

      "Don't accept any official scientific place if you can avoid
      it, and tell no one I gave you this advice, as they would
      all cry out against me as the preacher of anti-patriotic
      principles. I fought against the calamity of being President
      [of the Geological Society] as long as I could. All has gone
      on smoothly, and it has not cost me more time than I
      anticipated; but my question is, whether the time
      annihilated by learned bodies ('par les affaires
      administratives') is balanced by any good they do. Fancy
      exchanging Herschel at the Cape for Herschel as President of
      the Royal Society, which he so narrowly escaped being, and I
      voting for him too! I hope to be forgiven for that. At
      least, work as I did, exclusively for yourself and for
      Science for many years, and do not prematurely incur the
      honour or the penalty of official dignities. There are
      people who may be profitably employed in such duties,
      because they would not work if not so engaged."

Not very altruistic advice, it may be feared, but nevertheless bearing
the stamp of practical wisdom. Committee-work and other official duties
are terrible wasters of time, and thus, although often necessary and
inevitable, are rightly regarded as evils. Many men, as Lyell intimates,
have been seriously hindered in researches for which they were
exceptionally fitted by allowing themselves to be at everyone's beck and
call, and getting their days cut to shreds by meetings. So far has this
gone in some cases, that the high promise of early days has been very
inadequately fulfilled, and some great piece of work has been never
completed. If the spirit in which Lyell writes were more frequent, the
common illusion that workers in science belong to some inferior branch
of the public service would be dispelled, and the business of scientific
societies would sometimes run more smoothly; at any rate, it would be
finished more quickly, because no one would care to waste time over
splitting hairs, and hunting for knots in a bullrush.[85]

The year 1837, like the preceding one, was spent in quiet work, though
three months of the summer were devoted to a journey on the Continent.
As regards the former, it is evident that the book on which he was
engaged had caused him more than ordinary difficulty, for it appears to
have progressed more slowly than can be explained either by the duties
of the Presidential chair, which he resigned in the month of February of
this year, or by any distraction caused by other scientific work. But a
sentence in a letter written to one of his sisters at the beginning of
May throws some light on the cause of the delay. He says, "I have at
last struck out a plan for the future splitting of the 'Principles' into
'Principles' and 'Elements' as two separate works, which pleases me very
much, so now I shall get on rapidly."

The summer journey was to Denmark and the south of Norway, and this time
Mrs. Lyell was able to bear him company. They left London early in June
for Hamburg, crossing Holstein to Kiel, and travelling thence to
Copenhagen. Here he set to work at once with Dr. Beck to study fossil
shells, in the Crown Prince's cabinet and in the other museums of the
city. Questions had arisen as to the nomenclature of various fossil
species to which Lyell had referred in his book, on which Dr. Beck
differed from Deshayes, so that Lyell was anxious to investigate some of
the points for himself, and to see the original type-specimens in
Linnæus' collection, since these, in some cases, had been wrongly
identified by Lamarck and other palæontologists. During a drive with
the Crown Prince, he had the opportunity of examining an interesting
section of the drift a few miles from Copenhagen, where it "was composed
to a great depth of innumerable rolled blocks of chalk with a few of
granite intermixed. Fossils were numerous in the chalk.... Prince
Christian set four men to work, while the horses were baiting, to clear
away the talus, by which I saw that the boulders of chalk were in fact
in beds, with occasional layers of sand between."

On reaching Norway Lyell made several expeditions from Christiania, in
the course of which he examined a clay which occupies valleys and other
parts of the granite region. This, which sometimes is found more than
600 feet above sea-level, he states "is a marine deposit containing
recent species of shells, such as now inhabit the fjords of Norway."

This visit to Norway gave Lyell the opportunity of dispelling some
erroneous ideas as to the relation of the granite to the "transition"
(or lower Palæozoic) strata. This granite he found to be intrusive into
these rocks, and into the much more ancient gneiss on which they rested.
The sedimentary rocks near the junction were much altered, the
limestones being changed into marble, the shale into micaceous schists;
the fossils being more completely obliterated in the latter than in the
former case. Some remarks which he makes as to the relations of the
granite and gneiss indicate the closeness and carefulness of his
observations. "This gneiss ... this most ancient rock is so beautifully
soldered on to the granite, so nicely threaded by veins large and small,
or in other cases so shades into the granite, that had you not known the
immense difference in age, you would be half-staggered with the
suspicion that all was made at one batch."[86]

From Copenhagen, on their return, they went to Lübeck and drove thence
to Hamburg, across the sand and boulder formation of the Baltic, and so
through the north of Germany. Among these boulders Lyell recognised the
red granite, which he had seen in Norway sending off veins into the
orthoceratite limestones and associated Silurian rocks. This "had been
carried, with small gravel of the same, by ice of course, over the south
of Norway, and thence down the south-west of Sweden, and all over
Jutland and Holstein down to the Elbe, from whence they come to the
Weser, and so to this or near this (Wesel-on-the-Rhine). But it is
curious that about Münster and Osnabruck, the low Secondary mountains
have stopped them; hills of chalk, Muschelkalk, old coal, etc., which
rise a few hundred feet in general above the great plain of north and
north-west Germany, effectually arrest their passage. This then was
already dry land when Holstein, and all the Baltic as far as Osnabruck
or the Teutoberger Waldhills, was submerged."[87]

At the end of September they returned to London through Paris and
Normandy, and the rest of the year was mainly devoted to the completion
of the "Elements of Geology." Little seems to have happened in the
earlier part of the next year (1838); and in the summer Lyell went
northward, halting on the way, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, to attend the
meeting of the British Association. Here he was made President of the
Geological Section, which appears to have been very successful, for he
writes that the section was crowded--from 1,000 to 1,500 persons always
present. The meeting, altogether, was a large one; but as the total
number of tickets issued only amounted to 2,400, it seems probable that
the general public was admitted more freely than is the custom at the
present day. Sedgwick also on one occasion attracted a large crowd, for
we are told that he delivered a most eloquent lecture "to 3,000 people
on the Sea-shore." Geology, no doubt, has made great advances since that
day, little more than half a century ago, but at the cost of much loss
of attractiveness. It was then simple in its terminology, and fairly
intelligible to people of ordinary education; now these are frightened
away by papers bristling with technical terms and Greek-born words, and
nothing but the prospect of a "scrimmage" would draw together 500 people
to a meeting of Section C at the present day. Commonly the audience
hardly amounts to one-fifth of that number. Geologists, perhaps, might
consider with advantage whether a little abstinence from long words
might not make the science more generally intelligible, and thus more
attractive, without any loss of real precision.

The "Elements of Geology" was finally published a few weeks before the
Newcastle meeting, and the work of recasting the "Principles" went on at
intervals in preparation for the sixth edition, which appeared in 1840.
If, in accordance with the maxim, a nation is happy which has no
history, Lyell ought to have passed almost a year in a state of
felicity, for nothing is recorded between September 6th, 1838, when he
writes to Charles Darwin from Kinnordy, and August 1st, 1839, when he
writes to Dr. Fitton from the same place. Both these letters are
interesting. The former discusses the relation of Darwin's theory of the
formation of coral islands with E. de Beaumont's idea of the
contemporaneity of parallel mountain chains, which has been already
mentioned. One passage also throws light upon the difficulties with
which the British Association in its earlier days had to contend. Some
of the most influential newspapers had set themselves to write it
down--needless to say, without success. Good sense sometimes is too
strong even for newspapers. But Lyell thus urges Darwin[88]:--

      "Do not let Broderip, or the _Times_ or the _Age_ or _John
      Bull_, nor any papers, whether of saints or sinners, induce
      you to join in running down the British Association. I do
      not mean to insinuate that you ever did so, but I have
      myself often seen its faults in a strong light, and am aware
      of what may be urged against philosophers turning public
      orators, etc. But I am convinced--although it is not the way
      I love to spend my own time--that in this country no
      importance is attached to any body of men who do not make
      occasional demonstrations of their strength in public
      meetings. It is a country where, as Tom Moore justly
      complained, a most exaggerated importance is attached to the
      faculty of thinking on your legs, and where, as Dan
      O'Connell very well knows, nothing is to be got in the way
      of homage or influence, or even a fair share of power,
      without agitation."

Far-reaching words, the truth of which has been demonstrated again and
again during the years which have elapsed since they were written. Lyell
lays his finger on the weakest spot in the nature of the true-born
Briton: he is deaf to quiet reasoning, and frightened by loud shoutings.

The second letter, that of 1839, is addressed to Dr. Fitton, who had
written for the _Edinburgh Review_ a criticism of the "Principles of
Geology," in which he had expressed the opinion that Lyell had
insufficiently acknowledged the value of Hutton's work. From this charge
Lyell defends himself, pointing out that, valuable as were Hutton's
contributions to the philosophy of geology, he was by no means the first
in the field--that there were also "mighty men of old" to whom he felt
bound to do justice, even at the risk of seeming to undervalue the great
Scotchman. He points out that Hutton's work occupies a fair amount of
space in the section of the "Principles" which is devoted to an
historical sketch of the earlier geologists:--

      "In my first chapter," he writes, "I gave Hutton credit for
      first separating geology from other sciences, and declaring
      it to have no concern with the origin of things;[89] and
      after rapidly discussing a great number of celebrated
      writers, I pause to give, comparatively speaking,
      full-length portraits of Werner and Hutton, giving the
      latter the decided palm of theoretical excellence, and
      alluding to the two grand points in which he advanced the
      science--first, the igneous origin of granite; secondly,
      that the so-called primitive rocks were altered strata.[90]
      I dwelt emphatically on the complete revolution brought
      about by his new views respecting granite, and entered fully
      on Playfair's illustrations and defence of Hutton.... The
      mottoes of my first two volumes were especially selected
      from Playfair's 'Huttonian Theory' because--although I was
      brought round slowly, against some of my early prejudices,
      to adopt Playfair's doctrines to the full extent--I was
      desirous to acknowledge his and Hutton's priority. And I
      have a letter of Basil Hall's, in which, after speaking of
      points in which Hutton approached nearer to my doctrines
      than his father, Sir James Hall, he comments on the manner
      in which my very title-page did homage to the Huttonians,
      and complimented me for thus disavowing all pretensions to
      be the originator of the theory of the adequacy of modern

In the following month Lyell attended a meeting of the British
Association at Birmingham, and was invited, together with several of the
leading men of science there present, to dine and spend the night at
Drayton Manor, the residence of Sir R. Peel, near Tamworth. In a letter
to one of his sisters, Lyell gives an interesting sketch of his
impressions of the great statesman:--

      "Some of the party said next day that Peel never gave an
      opinion for or against any point from extra-caution, but I
      really thought that he expressed himself as freely, even on
      subjects bordering on the political, as a well-bred man
      could do when talking to another with whose opinions he was
      unacquainted. He was very curious to know what Vernon
      Harcourt [the President for that year] had said on the
      connection of religion and science. I told him of it, and my
      own ideas, and in the middle of my strictures on the Dean of
      York's pamphlet[92] I exclaimed, 'By-the-bye, I have only
      just remembered that he is your brother-in-law.' He said,
      'Yes, he is a clever man and a good writer, but if men will
      not read any one book written by scientific men on such a
      subject, they must take the consequences.' ... If I had not
      known Sir Robert's extensive acquirements, I should only
      have thought him an intelligent, well-informed country
      gentleman; not slow, but without any quickness, free from
      that kind of party feeling which prevents men from
      appreciating those who differ from them, taking pleasure in
      improvements, without enthusiasm, not capable of joining in
      a hearty laugh at a good joke, but cheerful, and not
      preventing Lord Northampton, Whewell, and others from making
      merry. He is without a tincture of science, and interested
      in it only so far as knowing its importance in the arts, and
      as a subject with which a large body of persons of talent
      are occupied."[93]

The next year (1840) appears to have slipped away uneventfully, for only
a single letter serves as a record for the twelvemonth, and that is but
a short one addressed to Babbage asking him to look up one or two
geological matters during a journey through Normandy to Paris. As it is
dated from London on the 11th of August, this looks as if Lyell did not
go during the summer farther than Scotland, where he presided over the
Geological Section at the meeting of the British Association.[94] The
earlier part of 1841 appears to have been equally uneventful; but the
summer of that year saw the beginning of a long journey and the opening
of a new geological horizon, for Mr. and Mrs. Lyell crossed the Atlantic
on a visit to Canada and the United States.


[66] At King's College and at the Royal Institution. _See_ pp. 71, 72.

[67] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 401.

[68] Huxley, "Man's Place in Nature," p. 121.

[69] Only the skull was found, and that imperfect; moreover, the missing
part could not be discovered. The same is true of the other animal
remains, so that they could hardly have been victims of the Deluge.

[70] "Man's Place in Nature," p. 156.

[71] _Turbo littoreus_, _Mytilus edulis_, _Cardium edule_.

[72] The term, of course, is used here in the sense of either a slaty
rock or a hard shale.

[73] The ruins of which (in the Bay of Baiæ) gradually sank after the
middle of the fifth century until (probably towards the end of the
fifteenth century) the floor was more than twenty feet under water.
Since then it has risen up again.--"Principles of Geology," chap. xxx.

[74] He had expressed his doubts, in this and the former editions, as to
the validity of the proofs of a gradual rise of land in Sweden.

[75] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 436.

[76] Lyell's specimens appear to have come from Kured, two miles north
of Uddevalla, and only one hundred feet above the sea, but barnacles
were obtained by Brongniart at two hundred feet.--"Principles of
Geology," chap. xxxi.

[77] "Antiquity of Man," chap. iii.

[78] "Principles of Geology," ch. xxxi. "Antiquity of Man," ch. iii.

[79] "On the Structure of Large Mineral Masses," etc. _Trans. Geol. Soc.
Lond._, iii. p. 461.

[80] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 460.

[81] The weakness of his eyes was always more or less of a trouble.

[82] It is "past" in the text (Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p.
468), but I think this an obvious misprint.

[83] "Life of Charles Darwin," vol. i. p. 273.

[84] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. i. p. 475.

[85] It is but rarely that, so far as the writer has seen, this remark
applies to the committees of scientific societies in London, but the
amount of time thus wasted in the universities, judging from his own
experience of one of them, is really melancholy.

[86] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. ii. p. 22.

[87] _Ibid._, vol. ii. p. 20.

[88] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. ii. p. 45.

[89] Though undoubtedly this severance of geology and cosmogony was very
helpful at the time to the progress of the former, the justice of it may
be questioned; and Lyell's approval would not be endorsed by every
geologist at the present day, though probably it would still commend
itself to the majority.

[90] While this is true of many of the so-called primitive rocks, it is
now generally believed that no inconsiderable portion are really
abnormal or modified igneous rocks.

[91] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. ii. p. 48.

[92] The Very Reverend W. Cockburn, D.D., who testified against the
Association in a pamphlet entitled "The Dangers of Peripatetic
Philosophy" (published in 1838). When the Association met at York in
1844, he read a paper before the Geological Section, criticising that
science, and propounding a cosmogonical theory of his own. He was
severely handled by Professor Sedgwick, but published his paper under
the title, "The Bible defended against the British Association." This,
though an exceptionally silly production, had a large sale. ("Life and
Letters of Sedgwick," vol. ii. p. 76.)

[93] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. ii. p. 51.

[94] Held at Glasgow, beginning September 17th. An allusion, however,
during his American journey seems to imply a visit to France this year.



This is a summary of their doings on the opposite side of the Atlantic
in Lyell's own words: "In all, we were absent about thirteen months,
less than one of them being spent on the ocean, nearly ten in active
geological field work, and a little more than two in cities, during
which I gave by invitation some geological lectures to large and most
patient audiences."

To this may be added "three dozen boxes of specimens," and a mass of
notes on the raised beaches of the Canadian lakes, the glacial drift,
the falls of Niagara, and other questions of post-tertiary geology, as
well as on the tertiary, cretaceous, coal, and older rocks. These
afterwards produced a crop of about twenty papers, which appeared in
various scientific periodicals. The principal results and the general
impressions of the journey were worked up into a book entitled "Travels
in North America," which was published in 1845.

A geologist who has been trained among the scenery of Britain finds his
first view of the Alps to be the beginning of a new chapter in the Book
of Nature, but a visit to America more like the beginning of a new
volume. There almost everything is on a colossal scale--rivers, lakes,
forests, prairies, distances, such as cannot be matched, at any rate in
the more accessible parts of Europe. One may read of plains where the
sun rises and sets as from a sea; of lakes, like Superior, as big as
Ireland; of falls, like Niagara, where the neighbouring ground never
ceases to quiver with the thud of the precipitated water; of rivers well
nigh half a league wide while their waters still are far from the sea.
But such things must be seen to be realised. In our own island Nature
seems to be working at the present time on a scale comparatively puny;
she must be watched as she puts forth her full strength before the
adequacy of modern causes can be duly appreciated, and the history of
the past can be understood by comparing it with that of the present.

The invitation to cross the Atlantic hardly could have reached Lyell at
a more opportune epoch of his life. In his forty-fourth year, he was in
full vigour both of mind and of body. A long course of study and of
travel in Europe had trained him to be a keen observer, had enabled him
to appreciate the significance of phenomena, and had supplied him with
stores of knowledge on which he could draw for the interpretation of
difficulties. America also offered a splendid field for work. Much of
the country had been settled and brought under cultivation at no distant
date; new tracts were being made accessible almost daily. Geologists of
mark were few and far between, so that large areas awaited exploration,
and in many places the traveller found a virgin field. The Geological
Survey of Canada was just then being organised, the labours of the
National Survey in the United States had not yet begun, though State
surveys were at work, and had already borne good fruit. Indeed, while
Lyell was in the country, the third meeting of the Association of
American Geologists was held at Boston, and among those present were
several men whose names will always occupy an honoured place in the
history of the science. Still, at almost every step the observer might
be rewarded by some discovery or by some fascinating problem which would
give a direction to his future work.

The Lyells left Liverpool on July 20th, 1841, and reached Halifax on the
31st of the month, whence they went on to Boston, arriving there on
August 2nd. The close resemblance of the shells scattered on the shore
at the latter place to those in a similar situation in Britain was one
of the first things which Lyell noted; for he found that about one-third
were actually identical, a large number of the remainder being
geographical representatives, and only a few affording characteristic or
peculiar forms. For this correspondence, which, as he writes, had a
geological significance, he was not prepared. The drifts around Boston,
good sections of which had been exposed in making cuttings for railways,
resembled very closely the deposits which he had seen in Scandinavia.
Were it not, he says, for the distinctness of the plants and of the
birds, he could have believed himself in Scotland, or in some part of
Northern Europe. These masses of sand and pebbles, derived generally
from the more immediate neighbourhood, though containing sometimes huge
blocks which had travelled from great distances, occasionally exceeded
200 feet in depth. Commonly, however, they were only of a moderate
thickness, and were found to rest upon polished and striated surfaces of
granite, gneiss, and mica-schist. The latter effects, at any rate, would
now be generally attributed to the action of land ice, but Lyell thought
that the great extent of low country, remote from any high mountains,
made this agent practically impossible, and supposed that the work both
of transport and of attrition had been done during a period of
submergence by floating ice and grounding bergs.

After a few days' halt at Boston, they moved on to Newhaven, where
Professor Silliman showed him dykes and intrusive sheets of columnar
greenstone altering red sandstone, their general appearance and
association recalling Salisbury Crags and other familiar sections near
Edinburgh. In this district Lyell found the grasshoppers as numerous and
as noisy as in Italy, watched the fireflies sparkling in the darkness,
and had his first sight of a humming-bird, and of a wildflower hardly
less gorgeous, the scarlet lobelia.

From Newhaven they went to New York, and up the Hudson River in one of
the great steamers, past the noble colonnade of basalt called the
Palisades, and along the winding channel through the gneissic hills to
Albany. Here a geological survey had been established by the State, and
its members had already done good work, which, however, was not
altogether welcome to its employers, for they had dispelled all hopes of
finding coal within the limits of the State. This, as Lyell says, was a
great disappointment to many; but it did good in checking the rashness
of private speculation, and in preventing the waste of the large sums of
money which had been annually squandered in trials to find coal in
strata which really lay below the Carboniferous system. The advantage to
the revenues of the state by the stoppage of this outlay and the more
profitable direction given to private enterprise were sufficient, Lyell
remarks, "to indemnify the country, on mere utilitarian grounds, for
the sum of more than two hundred thousand dollars so munificently
expended on geological investigation."

From Albany Lyell travelled to Niagara. The journey was planned in order
to give him an opportunity of examining a connected series of formations
from the base of the Palæozoic, where it rested on the ancient gneiss,
to the coalfield of Pennsylvania; and he had the great advantage of
being accompanied by one of the most eminent of American geologists, Mr.
James Hall.

      "In the course of this third tour," Lyell writes,[95] "I
      became convinced that we must turn to the New World if we
      want to see in perfection the oldest monuments of the
      earth's history, so far as relates to its earliest
      inhabitants. Certainly in no other country are these ancient
      strata developed on a grander scale, or more plentifully
      charged with fossils; and as they are nearly horizontal, the
      order of their relative position is always clear and
      unequivocal. They exhibit, moreover, in their range from the
      Hudson River to the Niagara some fine examples of the
      gradual manner in which certain sets of strata thin out when
      followed for hundreds of miles; while others, previously
      wanting, become intercalated in the series."

He observed, also, that while some species of the fossils contained in
these rocks were common to both sides of the Atlantic, the majority were
different; thus disproving the statement which at that time was often
made--namely, that in the rocks older than the Carboniferous system the
fossil fauna in different parts of the globe was almost everywhere the
same, and showing that, "however close the present analogy of forms may
be, there is evidence of the same law of variation in space as now
prevails in the living creation."

Lyell made a thorough study of the Falls of Niagara, to which he paid a
second visit before his return to England. The first view of these
Falls, like the first sight of a great snow-clad peak, is one of those
epochs of life of which the memory can never fade. It stirred Lyell to
an unwonted enthusiasm. At the first view, from a distance of about
three miles, with not a house in sight--it would be impossible, we
think, to find such a spot now; "nothing but the greenwood, the falling
water, and the white foam"--he thought the falls "more beautiful but
less grand" than he had expected; but, after spending some days in the
neighbourhood, now watching the river sweeping onwards to its final
plunge, here in the turmoil of the rapids, there in its gliding, so
smooth but so irresistible; now gazing at that mighty wall of 'shattered
chrysoprase' and rainbow-tinted spray, which floats up like the steam of
Etna; now looking down from the brink of the crags below the fall upon
those rapids, where the billows of green water roll and plunge like the
waves of the ocean, he "at last learned by degrees to comprehend the
wonders of the scene, and to feel its full magnificence."

But, keenly as he might be impressed with the poetic grandeur of the
falls, he could not forget the scientific questions which were ever
present to his mind. The gorge of Niagara offered a problem for solution
which had for him a special fascination. Not only did it illustrate on a
grand scale the potencies of water in rapid motion, but also it
furnished data for estimating the period during which this agent had
been at work. The gorge has been carved in a plateau of Silurian rock,
which terminates, seven miles below the falls, in a precipitous
escarpment overhanging Queenstown. There was a time when that gorge did
not exist, when the river first took its course along the plateau on its
way from Lake Erie, and plunged over the brink of the escarpment. The
valley at first was nothing more than a shallow trench excavated in the
drift which covers the surface of the country--such an one as may still
be seen between Lake Erie and the falls--but the river, slowly and
steadily, has cut its way back through the rocky plateau from the first
site of the falls near Queenstown to their present position. The upper
part of this plateau consists of a thick bed of hard limestone, but
beneath this the deposits become softer; and the lowest bed is the most
perishable. The water, as it plunges down, undermines the overlying
rock. The gorge began at once to be developed, and it has ever since
continued to retreat towards Lake Erie. Every year makes some slight
change. This becomes more marked when old histories are consulted and
old drawings compared with the present aspect of the scene. Father
Hennepin's sketch, of which Lyell gives a copy,[96] rude and incorrect
as it is, proves beyond all question that the changes in the
neighbourhood of Table Rock have been very considerable, for it shows
that on this side a third and much narrower cascade fell athwart the
general course of the main mass of water. This cascade, by the time of
Kalm's[97] visit in 1751, had ceased to be conspicuous, and had quite
disappeared before the date of Lyell's visit. The Horseshoe Fall also at
the present time is less worthy of the name than it was at that date,
for its symmetry has been seriously marred by a deep notch which the
northern stream has cut in the more central part of the curve.[98]
Careful inquiry convinced Lyell that the slow recession of the falls was
an indubitable fact, and that its rate, on an average, was about a foot
a year. As the gorge is about seven miles long, this would fix its
beginning about 35,000 years ago.[99]

From Niagara Falls they travelled, still in Mr. Hall's company, by
Buffalo to Geneva, examining on the way some red, green, and bluish-grey
marls, with beds of gypsum and occasional salt springs, which, though
older than the coal measures of England, closely resembled in appearance
the upper part of the New Red Sandstone of Britain. Finally, after
crossing the outcrops of the Devonian system, they reached Pennsylvania,
where Lyell obtained his first view of the coal measures of North
America, and was no less interested than surprised to find how closely
the whole series corresponded with that of Britain. He saw sandstones
"such as are used for building in Newcastle or Edinburgh, dark shales
often full of ferns 'spread out as in a herbarium,' beds and nodules of
clay-ironstone, seams of bituminous coal, varying in thickness from a
few inches to some yards, and, beside these, an underlying coarse grit,
passing down into a conglomerate, which was very like the millstone grit
of England. The underclays beneath the seam of coal were full of stems
and rootlets of Stigmaria, and the sight of these confirmed him in the
opinion that the coal was formed of the remains of plants which had
grown upon the spot."[100] After examining the district, they returned
to Albany, and went thence to New York and Philadelphia, picking up on
the way as much geological information as was possible.

New Jersey afforded some highly interesting sections of rocks belonging
to the Cretaceous system, for these, though in mineral character
resembling the greensands on the eastern side of the Atlantic, contained
fossils which corresponded more closely with those of the white chalk,
some species being actually identical. This fact was another proof that,
though there had been in past ages a general similarity in the fauna of
any period, geographical provinces had existed no less than they do at
the present time.

Lyell had examined, as mentioned above, the bituminous coals in the
undisturbed region of Pennsylvania, the next step was to study the beds
of anthracite, with the associated strata, in the folded and broken
ridges of the Alleghany Mountains. In this part of his work he had the
inestimable advantage of being guided by Professor H. O. Rogers, whose
name is inseparably connected with the geology of that classic region.
The Alleghanies or Appalachians consist of a series of Silurian,
Devonian, and Carboniferous strata in orderly sequence, "folded" (to use
Lyell's words) "as if they had been subjected to a great lateral
pressure when in a soft and yielding state, large portions having
afterwards been removed by denudation. The long uniform, parallel
ridges, with intervening valleys like so many gigantic wrinkles and
furrows, are in close connection with the geological structure," and the
rocks are most disturbed on the south-eastern flank of the chain, where
the folds sometimes bend over to the west; in other words, the greatest
disturbances are on the side nearest to the fundamental gneiss and the
basin of the Atlantic--facts which probably stand in the relation of
effect and cause.

It was a surprise to Lyell, on reaching the anthracite district around
Pottsville on the Schuylkill, to see "a flourishing manufacturing town
with the tall chimneys of a hundred furnaces, burning night and day, yet
quite free from smoke." Special contrivances, of course, are requisite
to secure the combustion of anthracite, especially in household
fireplaces, but he had no hesitation in declaring that he preferred the
use of it, notwithstanding the stove-like heat produced, to that of the
bituminous coal consumed in London, with the penalty of living in an
atmosphere dark with smoke and foul with smuts.

The seams of anthracite in this district are sometimes worked in
open-air excavations, but as the strata have been bent into a vertical
position the beds above and below, when the anthracite has been quarried
out, are left like the walls of a fissure, and thus can be examined
with the greatest ease.

Here also the "roof" of the seam proved to be a dark shale full of the
usual plant-remains, among which were some British species of ferns, and
the "floor" was an "underclay" containing the stems and rootlets of
Stigmaria. Lyell also observed that the beds of detrital
materials--sandstones, shales, etc.--were less persistent than those of
coal, and that the way in which the former became thicker towards the
south-east indicated that this was the direction of the ancient land
region from which they had been derived. The result of his examination
satisfied him that the anthracite of the Appalachians was identical in
age, generally speaking, with the bituminous coal which he had
previously examined, and was merely a fragment of the great continuous
coalfield of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio, which lies about forty
miles away to the westward.

After returning to Philadelphia Mr. and Mrs. Lyell went, _viâ_ New York,
to Boston, where he had been engaged to deliver a course of twelve
lectures on geology at the Lowell Institute. To the courses here
admission was free, but the tickets were given under certain
restrictions. For Lyell's lectures about 4,500 were issued, and the
class, he states, usually consisted of more than 3,000 persons. It had
therefore to be sub-divided and each lecture to be repeated. The
audience was composed "of persons of both sexes, of every station in
society, from the most affluent and eminent in the various learned
professions to the humblest mechanics, all well-dressed, and observing
the utmost decorum."

At the conclusion of the lectures the Lyells travelled southwards, so
that he might take advantage of the more genial climate and continue his
geological work in the open air. He first halted at Richmond in
Virginia, and from that place visited the Tertiary deposits in the
vicinity of the James River. The more interesting of these are of
Miocene age, and he observed that the fossils of Maryland and Virginia
resembled those of Touraine and the neighbourhood of Bordeaux more
closely than those from the coralline Crag of Suffolk, especially in the
presence of genera indicative of a warm climate.

From this place they travelled across the "pine barrens"--where their
train was stopped for the night by the slippery condition of the
rails--to Weldon in North Carolina. Here Lyell saw the Great Dismal
Swamp, a morass which extends for about forty miles from the
neighbourhood of this town to Norfolk in Virginia. Like the bogs of
Ireland, this marshy plain, some five-and-twenty miles across, is rather
higher at the middle than at the edges. Its surface "is carpeted with
mosses, and densely covered with ferns and reeds, above which many
evergreen shrubs and trees flourish, especially the white cedar
(_Cupressus thyoides_), which stands firmly supported by its long
tap-roots in the softest parts of the quagmire. Over the whole, the
deciduous cypress (_Taxodium distichum_) is seen to tower with its
spreading top, in full leaf, in the season when the sun's rays are
hottest, and when, if not interrupted by a screen of foliage, they might
soon cause the fallen leaves and dead plants of the preceding autumn to
decompose, instead of adding their contributions to the peaty mass. On
the surface of the whole morass lie innumerable trunks of large and
tall trees, blown down by the winds, while thousands of others are
buried at various depths in the black mire below. They remind the
geologist of the prostrate position of large stems of Sigillaria and
Lepidodendron, converted into coal in ancient Carboniferous rocks."[101]

At Charleston they had practically passed beyond the southern limit of
the winter snowfall, the greatest enemy of the field-geologist, and
could carry on work without fear of interruption. Here they found
flowers "at the end of December still lingering in the gardens," and
were in the region of the palmetto palm. Few things during this rather
lengthy journey impressed Lyell more than the facility of locomotion in
a district which, comparatively speaking, was a new settlement, and was
still in places thinly peopled, together with the general good quality
of the accommodation for travellers. In this respect they had fared much
worse during the previous year, when they were travelling through some
of the more populous parts of France, such as Touraine and Brittany.
After a journey through the pinewoods, they reached Augusta in Georgia,
where another group of Tertiary deposits invited a halt. Those belonging
to the Eocene period lie further down the Savannah River, so that a
journey was made for the purpose of examining them, in the course of
which, near the town of the same name as the river, Lyell also saw the
clay in which remains of the mastodon and of other extinct mammals had
been found. The muddy beach, with the tracks of racoons and opossums,
gave him some hints as to the history of fossil footprints, so that on
the whole very much interesting geology was the reward of a three weeks'
stay in South Carolina. Then they once more turned their faces
northward, and made their way, working at geology as they went, to
Philadelphia, where they found themselves again in the region of colder
winters at the present, and of erratic boulders as memorials of the

Six weeks were spent in Philadelphia, but Lyell's time was largely taken
up by the delivery of a short course of lectures on geology.
Pennsylvania, however, added to his experiences in another way, for the
state had passed through a commercial crisis, and was unable to pay the
interest on its funded debt. The soreness produced by this repudiation
will not be readily forgotten, for nearly two-thirds of the stock--the
whole amount of which was eight millions sterling--was held by British
owners, so that the loss was felt heavily on this side of the Atlantic.
In his "Travels" Lyell gives a brief history of this transaction, and
discusses the political causes of a crisis which had been hardly less
disastrous in America than in England.

They reached New York in the month of March, and spent several weeks
there, for in that neighbourhood both the ancient crystalline rocks and
the modern drift, with its erratics, afforded Lyell ample materials for
study, each of these being then reckoned (and they have not ceased to be
so counted) among the most difficult questions of geology. Towards the
middle of April he proceeded northward, in order to examine the
perplexing schists and less altered sedimentary deposits of the Taconic
range, rocks which from that time to this have given ample employment to
geologists. After this he found an opportunity of making use of the
lessons learnt on the flats by the James River, for he went to
Springfield and examined the famous footprints in the sandstone of
Connecticut. As the deposit was referred to the Trias, and the
footprints to birds, they were supposed to indicate the existence of
this class of the animal kingdom at the beginning of the Secondary era.
They have, however, now lost their special interest, since they are
generally assigned to reptiles. After the middle of April was past, the
travellers again reached Boston, from which city an excursion was made
in order to study the Tertiary deposits of the island called Martha's
Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts.

Returning to Philadelphia early in May, they went by Baltimore westward
to the valley of the Ohio, in order to examine the undisturbed country
beyond the folded district of the Alleghany Mountains. By this journey
another section was, in fact, run across the great coalfield of the
Eastern States, but considerably to the south of that which had been
examined in the autumn of the preceding year. This proved no less
interesting than the former one. At Brownsville, to take one instance
only, a seam of bituminous coal, ten feet in thickness, was seen
cropping out in the river cliff by the side of a large tributary of the
Ohio, where it was worked by horizontal galleries. Pittsburg and other
interesting localities in the neighbourhood were also visited, and then
the Lyells descended the Ohio River to Cincinnati. He had thus traversed
in descending order the succession of strata from the Carboniferous to
the Lower Silurian or Ordovician system, which is exposed in the
neighbourhood of that town. This, however, was not the only attraction
offered by Cincinnati. Some two-and-twenty miles distant is the famous
Big Bone Lick in Kentucky. Here some saline springs break out on a
nearly level and boggy river plain, which are still attractive to wild
animals, and often in past time lured them to their death in the
adjacent quagmires. Here the bones of the mastodon and the elephant, of
the megalonyx, stag, horse, and bison, have all been found, some in
great numbers; and the last-named animals had frequented the springs
within the memory of persons who were living at the time of Lyell's
visit. These bones are generally embedded in a black mud, at a depth of
about a dozen feet below the surface of the creek. Lyell suggests that
very probably the heavy mastodons and elephants were lost by shoving one
another off the tracks and into the more marshy ground as they struggled
to satisfy themselves at the springs; just as horses, cattle, and deer
get pushed into the stream in thronging to the rivers on the pampas of
South America.

From Cincinnati the travellers struck northward to Cleveland on Lake
Erie, going across a region which at that time was still being cleared
and settled, and getting an experience of that American form of
travellers' torture called a corduroy road. The lake-ridges--curious
mounds or terraces of water-worn materials--in the neighbourhood of
Cleveland afforded a new subject for an investigation which was
continued in the vicinity of Ontario. But before reaching this lake
Lyell spent a week at the Falls of Niagara, revising and enlarging the
work already done. During the time he investigated the buried channel
which appears to lead from the whirlpool to St. Davids, a league or so
to the west of Queenstown. This was supposed by Lyell and many
subsequent geologists to indicate part of an old course of the St.
Lawrence, which had afterwards been blocked up by glacial drifts. It is,
however, according to Professor J. W. Spencer, only a branch of a buried
valley, outside the Niagara cañon and much shallower than it, which has
been cut through by the present St. Lawrence, and has merely produced an
elongation of the chasm at the Whirlpool.[102] Another series of
lake-ridges was examined in the neighbourhood of Toronto. Here Lyell
traced them to a height of 680 feet above the level of Ontario, seeing
in all no less than eleven, some of them much reminding him of the ösar
which he had examined in Sweden. In regard to these lake-ridges he
writes thus:--

      With the exception of the parallel roads or shelves of
      Glenroy and some neighbouring glens of the Western Highlands
      in Scotland, I never saw so remarkable an example of banks,
      terraces, and accumulations of stratified sand and gravel,
      maintaining, over wide areas, so perfect a horizontality, as
      in the district north of Toronto.[103]

Leaving Toronto on June 18th, they descended the St. Lawrence to
Montreal and Quebec. The neighbourhood of either town afforded
opportunities for much interesting work, especially in the drift
deposits; the underlying ice-worn surfaces of crystalline or Palæozoic
rock reminding Lyell of what he had seen in Scandinavia. At Montreal,
the great hill, which gives its name to the town built upon its lower
slopes, affords some highly interesting sections. It is composed of
Palæozoic limestone, which has been pierced by more than one mass of
coarsely crystalline intrusive rock and cleft by many dykes of a more
compact character. Near the junction with the larger intrusive masses
the limestone becomes conspicuously crystalline, and the fossils
disappear, just as in the cases which Lyell had already seen about the
border of granite in Scandinavia. Some also of the igneous rocks now
possess a further interest, for they contain nepheline, a mineral not
very common. This, however, had not been recognised at the time of
Lyell's visit. The limestone in some of the quarries is wonderfully
ice-worn, and the overlying drifts are in many ways remarkable. Of these
drifts, Lyell examined various sections, at heights of from 60 to 200
feet above the St. Lawrence, finding plenty of sea-shells,[104] the
common mussel being in one place especially abundant. He also examined
some sections of stratified drifts between Montreal and Quebec, but
without obtaining any fossils, though they had been found by Captain
Bayford and others. The drifts, however, near the latter city were more
prolific. With their shells, indeed, he was already, to some extent,
familiar, for in the year 1835 he had received a collection from Captain
Bayford. This happened to reach London at a time when Dr. Beck of
Copenhagen was with him, and "great was our surprise," he writes, "on
opening the box to find that nearly all the shells agreed specifically
with fossils which, in the summer of the preceding year, I had obtained
at Uddevalla in Sweden." The most abundant species were still living in
northern seas, some in those of Greenland and other high latitudes;
while in Sweden they were found fossil between latitudes 58° and 60° N.,
and here in latitude 47°. These fossil shells occur at Beaufort, about a
league below Quebec, and about a quarter of a mile from the river, in
deposits which have filled an old ravine in the Palæozoic rock. A
laminated clay forms the lowest bed, above which comes a stratified
sand, and this is followed by a clay containing boulders, each of these
deposits being about twenty-five feet thick. They are without fossils,
which begin with the next bed, a stratified mass of pebbly sand and
loam, and become more frequent, till at last this passes into a mass
nearly twelve feet thick, consisting almost wholly of the well-known
bivalve _Saxicava rugosa_. This deposit was about 150 feet above the
level of the sea. Afterwards, in travelling southwards from Montreal,
whither he returned from Quebec, Lyell found marine shells on the border
of Lake Champlain, about eighty miles from the former town. Here they
occurred in a loam, which was covered by a sand, and rested on a clay
about thirty feet thick, containing boulders, some of them nine feet in

Lyell sums up the results of his investigations by stating that, in his
opinion, the shells certainly belong to the same geological period as do
the boulders, and occur both above and below beds containing erratics;
while the fundamental rocks below the drift are "smoothed and furrowed
on the surface by glacial action." This effect Lyell at that time
attributed to the friction of bergs grounding as they floated, but it is
now referred by the majority of geologists to the action of land ice. Be
this, however, as it may, the shell-bearing beds must have been
deposited in the sea; so that either the land must have sunk as the ice
retreated, or the latter at the time of its greatest extension must have
trespassed on the domain of the sea, as it still does around parts of
the Antarctic continent.

From Montreal they went, by way of Lake Champlain and over the Green
Mountains, to Boston, where they arrived about the middle of July, and
proceeded by steamer to Halifax. Here began the last stage of Lyell's
journey, the examination of the Carboniferous system in Nova Scotia, to
which work a full month was devoted. After studying the gypsum, red
marl, and sandstone of the lower part of that system, which bears some
resemblance to the Upper Trias (Keuper) of Britain, he crossed the Bay
of Mines to Minudie, in the heart of the Nova Scotian coalfield. The
cliffs by the sea-shore exhibit a fine series of sections, from the
gypseous rocks up to the coal measures, uninterrupted by faults, the
beds dipping steadily at an angle of nearly 30°. Sandstones, shales, and
seams of coal could be seen alternating in the usual manner; and from
the last-named, stumps of trees, sometimes two or three yards high, were
seen in places, as at South Joggins, projecting at right angles to the
surface of the bed. Of such stems he observed at least seventeen at ten
different levels. The stumps never pierced a coal-seam, but always
terminated downwards either in it or in shale, and never in sandstone,
thus indicating that they were a part of the vegetation from which the
coal had been formed, and that it, like a peat-bog in England, required
a subsoil impervious to water. Lyell also mentions that Mr. (now Sir) J.
W. Dawson, who was his companion for part of the time, had found a bed
of calamites in a similar position of growth.

But, in addition to much interesting work in various parts of the Nova
Scotian coalfield, Lyell had the opportunity of witnessing the noted
tides of the Bay of Fundy, where the difference between high and low
water is as great as, if not greater than, anywhere else on the globe.
On the muddy flats thus left bare he had another opportunity of studying
the tracks left by various animals, marine and terrestrial; and in
watching how these were hardened by the action of the sun, if they had
been made near the high-water mark of spring-tides, he gained further
hints for interpreting the fossil footprints of Connecticut and other

On the 18th of August the Lyells left Halifax for England, thus bringing
to a close a year of assiduous field-work, long journeys, and varied
experiences. It was a period of the most continuous outdoor labour, and
thus the most fruitful in the acquisition of knowledge which he had
spent since his marriage and the publication of the "Principles of
Geology"--a period comparable only with his journey, between May, 1828,
and February, 1829, in France, Italy, and Sicily, though it was still
longer and more fruitful, were this possible, in varied geological
experiences. He had not, indeed, seen in this part of America any
volcanoes, active or extinct--of which, however, he had already examined
plenty; but he had studied good and characteristic sections of almost
every formation which occurred in the more eastern states of America,
from the most ancient crystalline masses, the foundation stones of the
continent, to the most recent fossiliferous drifts. He had travelled
from a region which resembled Scandinavia to one where the climate was
more like that of the north coast of Africa, and had enlarged his
conceptions of the scale on which Nature worked. But, in addition, he
had been afforded an opportunity of studying the social and political
condition of a young and vigorous nation as it was developing,
unfettered by antiquated laws and hereditary customs. To this aspect of
the tour a brief reference will be made in a later chapter; now it is
enough to say that the long journeying of the twelvemonth had been
happily ended, without illness, without the slightest accident, without
anything that could be called an adventure. This good fortune followed
them to the very end, for even the homeward passage is dismissed with
the brief remark that it took nine days and sixteen hours; so that it
may be supposed to have been prosperously uneventful. Then in eight
hours after leaving Liverpool the travellers were back once more in


[95] "Travels in North America," chap. i.

[96] "Travels in North America," chap. ii.

[97] See the plate in the _Gentleman's Magazine_, 1751.

[98] See map in "Man and the Glacial Period," by Dr. G. F. Wright
(International Scientific Series), p. 338.

[99] The estimates made by geologists have varied from 55,000 years
(Ellicott, in 1790) to not more than 7,000 years (United States
Geological Survey, 1886). Professor J. W. Spencer, who has recently
investigated the question, has arrived, by a different method, at a date
practically identical with that assigned by Lyell (Proc. Roy. Soc., vol.
lvi. (1894), p. 145).

[100] This was still a moot point with geologists. Lyell refers to the
confirmatory evidence which W. Logan had recently obtained in the South
Wales coalfield of Britain.

[101] "Principles of Geology," chap. xliv.

[102] Proc. Roy. Soc. lvi. (1894), p. 146.

[103] The lake-ridges and raised beaches around the Great Lakes,
indicating margins of the water when it stood at a higher level than
now, have received much attention of late years from Canadian and
American geologists. They are found to vary somewhat in level, thus
indicating unequal movements of the earth's crust. References to
literature prior to 1890 will be found in a paper by Professor J. W.
Spencer, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc., vol. xlvi. (1890), p. 523.

[104] See, for descriptions of these sections and lists of the fossils,
Sir W. Dawson's "The Ice Age in Canada," chaps. vi. and vii. They occur
up to 560 feet above the sea.



Very soon after their arrival in England the travellers went north to
Kinnordy, where they remained till the end of October, when they
returned again to their London home. Such an accumulation of specimens
and of notes as had been gathered in America made necessary a long
period of labour indoors, unpacking, classifying, and arranging; while
certain groups of fossils had to be repacked and sent to friends, who
had undertaken to work them out. These occupations apparently detained
Lyell in London till August, 1843, when he started for Ireland,
indulging himself on the way with a short run in Somersetshire for some
geological work around Bath and Bristol, examining more particularly the
"dolomitic conglomerate," a shore deposit of Keuper age, in which the
remains of saurians had been found, and the Radstock Collieries, where
he spent more than five hours underground "traversing miles of galleries
in the coal," and finding here, as he had done in America, the stumps of
trees in an upright position and shales full of fossil ferns as "roofs"
to the seams. Then, in company with Mrs. Lyell, he crossed over to Cork,
where the British Association assembled on August 17th, under the
presidency of the late Earl of Rosse. The meeting was well attended by
scientific men, but was coldly received by the neighbourhood and
county--partly, as Lyell says, because the gentry cared little for
science; partly because the townspeople, comprising many rich merchants
and most of the tradesmen, were "Repealers"; "and, the agitation having
occurred since we were invited, the opposite parties could never, in
Ireland, act or pull together."

It was impossible to visit Cork without seeing the beauties of the lakes
and mountains of Killarney; and after this a short stay was made at Birr
Castle, Lord Rosse's pleasant home at Parsonstown. The huge reflecting
telescope, which is now more than a local wonder, was not then
completed; but the smaller one, itself on a gigantic scale, was in full
working order, and already had led to grand results by "not only
reducing nebulæ into clusters of distinct stars, but by showing that the
regular geometric figures in which they presented themselves to
Herschel, when viewed with a glass of less power, disappear and become
very much like parts of the Milky Way." Thence they went northward to
the coast of Antrim, to see the waves breaking upon the colonnades of
basalt at the Giant's Causeway, and the dykes of that rock cutting
through and altering the white chalk. Evidently the geology proved
interesting, as well it might, for here Nature presents a volume of her
geological history, that of the Secondary era, with only the opening and
the concluding chapters, all the record from the early part of the Lias
to the beginning of the Cretaceous having been torn out. The dark-tinted
greensand, changing almost immediately into the pure white chalk, often
presents curious colour-contrasts in a single section; while the
classification of the several deposits offered a problem at which
probably Lyell thought it wiser to "look and pass on." Several of the
more interesting facts observed during this trip were afterwards
described in the "Elements of Geology,"[105] among them the beds of
lignite which occur in Antrim, associated with the great flows of
basalt. Somewhat similar deposits were found, about seven years later,
at Ardtun, in Mull, by the Duke of Argyll--a discovery which led Lyell
to suggest, in later editions of the above-named work, the probability
that the basalts of Antrim and of the Inner Hebrides were of the same
geological age,--an inference which since then has been abundantly
confirmed by the researches of Professor Judd and other geologists.

One of the most interesting sections in Scotland faces Antrim. Here, on
the Ayrshire coast, between Girvan and Ballantrae, a complex of several
kinds of igneous rock and a region, not a little disturbed, of
"greywackes" and other sedimentary deposits present the geologist with
problems more than sufficiently perplexing. At these Lyell took the
opportunity of glancing, but a day's trip afforded no opportunity for
any serious attempt to read the riddle. That had to be left to a later
generation, and so it remained for over forty years. Something is now
known about the igneous rocks, though here work still remains to be
done; and the sedimentary deposits have been brought into order by the
labours of Professor Lapworth. They exhibit, according to his
description,[106] an ascending succession from the Llandeilo to the
Llandovery group, and appear to be more modern than some, if not all, of
the above-named igneous rocks. After their brief halt in this district
the Lyells went on to Forfarshire, and spent the rest of the autumn at

The winter was a busy time; he was writing steadily at his "Travels in
North America," and working up some of the more distinctly scientific
notes into formal papers for the Geological and other societies. Thus
occupied, more than a year slipped away, diversified only by a summer
visit to Scotland, attending the meeting of the British Association at
York, and a journey to the Haswell Colliery, Durham, together with
Faraday, as commissioners to examine into the cause of a recent
disastrous explosion, and see whether such accidents could be prevented.
Work at the "Travels in North America" took up all Lyell's spare time
during the winter, and the book was published in the earlier part of

It was only a few months old when Mr. and Mrs. Lyell again set off for
another tour in America. They left Liverpool on September 4th, and
landed at Halifax on the 17th, after a voyage diversified agreeably by
the sight of an iceberg and disagreeably by two gales. They went on at
once to Boston, and thence made a tour through the State of Maine.
During this sundry masses of drift were examined, which rested on
polished and grooved surfaces of crystalline rock, and contained the
usual shells, astarte, cardium, nucula, saxicava, etc., and in some
places a fossil fish[107] in concretionary nodules. At Portland similar
shells had been found in drifts which also contained bones both of the
bison and of the walrus. These drifts in some places attained a
thickness of 170 feet, and in them valleys 70 feet deep had been
excavated by streams. Then they went to the White Mountains, and on
approaching them Lyell did not fail to notice "on the low granite hills
many angular fragments of that rock, fifteen to twenty feet in diameter,
resting on heaps of sand." On their way they came to the Willey Slide,
where a whole family of that name had been killed nineteen years
previously in a landslip. Lyell carefully examined the scene of the
accident, in order to ascertain what effects were produced by a mass of
mud and stones as it slid over a face of rock, and found that it only
made short scratches and grooves, not long and straight furrows, like
those left by a glacier. They halted at Fabyan's Hotel near Mount
Washington, and after waiting for a favourable day reached the summit
(6,225 feet above the sea) on October 7th. It is easily accessible on

The notes of this excursion among the mountains show that Lyell still
retained his old liking for natural history in general, for they contain
remarks on the flowers, the insects, and the birds. Some observations on
the Alpine flora of the higher summits in the White Mountains indicate
his position at that time in regard to the origin of species. He adopts
the hypothesis of 'specific centres,' viz. that "each species had its
origin in a single birthplace and spread gradually from its original
centre to all accessible spots, fit for its habitation, by means of the
power of migration given it from the first." He supposed that the plants
common to the more arctic regions and to the higher ground further south
in Europe and Northern America were dispersed by floating ice during the
glacial epoch, when the ground stood at a lower level, and that
afterwards, when the climate became warmer, they gradually mounted up
the slopes of the hills. The possibility of a migration by land is not
mentioned, though doubtless it would have been admitted, because the
evidence which he had so often studied pointed rather to a downward than
to an upward movement but he asserts with some emphasis that many living
species are older than the existing distribution of sea and land.

On his return to Boston, he had other opportunities of studying ice-worn
rocks and erratics, and from this city made an excursion to Plymouth
(Massachusetts) to see the spot where, on a mid-winter day, the Pilgrim
Fathers had landed. But even here he could not neglect the shells upon
the strand, and he records that eighteen species were collected,
one-third of which were common to Europe. Still, we may note that on
this journey rather more attention was paid than on the former to
questions political, commercial, educational, and theological, and these
occupy a larger space in the "Second Visit to the United States," which
may account for its greater popularity. For example, it contains a
sketch of the witch-finding mania in Massachusetts late in the
seventeenth century, and a whole chapter on the sea-serpent. This "hardy
perennial" had appeared in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the previous
August and in October, 1844,[108] and had repeatedly visited the New
England coast from 1815 to 1825, when it had been seen by many credible
witnesses. Lyell appears to be satisfied that, though allowance had to
be made for exaggeration and honest misconception, some big creature
had been seen, and suggests that it may have been an exceptionally large
specimen of the basking shark.[109]

After a stay of nearly two months in Boston, they left for the south
early in December, and found a little difficulty at first, as on a
former occasion, from the slippery state of the rails. They journeyed by
Newhaven, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington to Richmond, where a
halt was made to examine the coalfield some sixteen miles to the
south-west of the city. The measures rest on the granite, filling up
inequalities on its surface, and are occasionally cut by dykes, which
produce the usual alteration in the adjacent coal. The principal seam is
from thirty to forty feet thick but the field, as a whole, reminded
Lyell most of that at St. Etienne (France), which he had visited in
1843.[110] From Richmond they went, as on the former occasion, by Weldon
to Wilmington, where the cliffs near the town yielded some Tertiary
fossils, and on Christmas morning they landed from a steamer at

From this city Lyell again visited the deposits near Savannah, which
contained remains of megatherium, mastodon, and other large quadrupeds,
as well as a second locality on Skiddaway Island, and then, on the last
day of the year, quitted Charleston for Darien in Georgia. Here also
were some more deposits of the same kind, while at St. Simon's Island
Lyell examined a very large Indian mound. It was a mass of shells,
chiefly of oysters, and contained flint arrow-heads, stone axes, and
fragments of Indian pottery.

Returning to Savannah, they travelled towards the north-west, by Macon
to Milledgeville. For more than 150 miles of the first part of the
journey Lyell went along the railway on a hand-car, so as to study the
cuttings and obtain the most continuous section possible of the Tertiary
deposits from the sea to the inland granite. These deposits consisted of
porcelain clays, yellow and white sands, and "burrstone," a flinty grit
used for millstones, which often was full of silicified shells and
corals, with the teeth of sharks and the bones of zeuglodon. Lyell
mentions that in the neighbourhood of Macon he saw blockhouses such as
those described by Cooper in the "Pathfinder," which twenty-five years
earlier had been used for defence against the Indians before any white
men's houses had been built in the forest.

Near Milledgeville the granite, gneiss, etc., is decomposed _in situ_ to
a considerable depth, and the rain-water, when the trees have been cut
down, quickly furrows the detrital deposits of the neighbourhood. A
remarkable instance of this action had occurred at Pomona Farm, where a
ravine 180 feet broad and 55 feet deep had been excavated in the course
of only twenty years.[111] From Milledgeville they returned to Macon,
and thence travelled westward by Columbus to Montgomery, being much
jolted in the stage-coach, but securing as a reward some Tertiary
fossils; and at the latter place they found red clays and sandstones,
which, however, were about the same age as the chalk of England. After
the coach travelling, a journey by steamer down the Alabama River to
Mobile was a welcome change, and the not unfrequent halts for cargo or
to take in wood gave opportunities for collecting fossils from the
neighbouring bluffs. One night they were startled by loud crashing
noises and the sound of breaking glass, and found that the steamer had
run foul of the trees growing on the bank. Their branches touched the
water, as the river was unusually high; and the vessel, in the darkness,
had been steered too near to the shore. Longer halts were made at
Claiborne, to collect fossils from deposits corresponding in age with
those at Bracklesham in England; and at Macon (Alabama) to visit a place
where some remarkable specimens of the zeuglodon had been discovered.
From Mobile also a long river journey was undertaken to Tuscaloosa, to
visit a coalfield which supplied the town with fuel and the materials
for gas. The field, "a southern prolongation of the great Appalachian
coalfield," is a large one, being about ninety miles long and thirty
wide, with some seams sixteen feet thick worked in open quarries. He
remarks that he made geological excursions "through forests recently
abandoned by the Indians, and where their paths may still be traced."

The strata on the Alabama River afforded a useful lesson on the
variability of lithological characters. Were it not for the fossils,
Lyell says, the Lower Cretaceous beds of loose gravel might be taken for
the newest Tertiary, the main body of the Chalk for Lias, and the soft
Tertiary limestone for the representative of the Chalk. It was
impossible to leave Mobile without seeing something of the Gulf of
Mexico; so they went in a steamer down the Alabama River to the seaside,
looked upon the muddy banks, with the shells[112] which live in them and
the quantities of drift-timber which bestrew them, and then went across
to one of the minor mouths of the Mississippi, and, passing up it,
landed at New Orleans.

This town, about 110 miles by water from the confluence of the main
channel of the Mississippi with the sea, afforded a convenient
opportunity for studying the character of the lower part of the delta of
the "Father of Waters." Such a region might be expected to supply facts
which would be helpful in the interpretation of many phenomena presented
by the coal measures. Accordingly, Lyell made one excursion to Lake
Pontchartrain, a great sheet of fresh water no great distance from both
New Orleans and the sea, and another down to the mouth of the
Mississippi. The road through the swamp to the former was constructed of
a strange material--viz. the white valves of a freshwater mollusc.[113]
These are obtained from a huge bank over a mile in length, and sometimes
about four yards in depth, at one end of the lake. How this had been
formed seemed doubtful. Possibly the shells had been piled up by the
waves during a storm; possibly there had been some slight change of
level. The lake itself is about fifteen feet below high-water mark, and
is about as many deep; but, as it receives an arm of the Mississippi,
silt is gradually raising the bottom. The sea sometimes, when impelled
by a strong south-east wind, makes its way into the lake. Among the
English coal measures--as, for instance, at Coalbrook Dale or in
Yorkshire--beds of marine shells are occasionally found intercalated
among or even associated with freshwater molluscs, without any
alteration in the general character of the beds in which they lie. How
this might occur is illustrated by Lake Pontchartrain in the swampy
alluvial delta. Here a very slight physical change might enable the sea
to take, for a time, possession of the land, and the denizens of its
water, like a band of pirates, to dispossess the usual inhabitants.

The other expedition also supplied not a few valuable facts relating to
the history of river deltas, which were afterwards supplemented as they
travelled northwards for some hundreds of miles up the river, following
its sinuous course through leagues of marshy plain, densely overgrown
with vegetation. In the seaward reaches, reed, and rush, and willow, but
above New Orleans cypresses and other timber trees, rise above the rank

The minor channels, blocked with driftwood which formed natural rafts;
the sand-bars and mud-banks; the great curves of the river, the
"bayous"[114] and isolated pools; the natural banks built up by the
sediment arrested at flood-time by the herbage near the river brink; the
floating timber and the "snags"--all provided valuable illustrations of
the physical features of a great river delta, and supplied him with
material which afterwards was worked up into newer editions of the
"Principles" and the "Elements."

From New Orleans Lyell went by steamer to Natchez, halting on the way to
examine more closely certain localities of interest and to obtain
illustrations of how a coalfield might be formed. The bluffs of
Natchez--almost the first place where distinctly higher ground
approaches the river-side--afforded plenty of semi-fossil shells,
specifically identical with those still inhabiting the valley of the
Mississippi, but the loam in which they were embedded--a loam which
reminded him of the loess of the Rhine--also contains the remains of the
mastodon, and overlies a clay with bones of the megalonyx, horse, and
other quadrupeds, mostly extinct. Beneath this clay are sands and
gravel, the whole forming a platform which rises about 200 feet above
the low river plain, revealing an earlier chapter in the history of the
river. Similar bluffs occur at Vicksburg, but these disclosed Eocene
strata beneath the alluvial deposits, and thus invited a halt in order
to explore the neighbourhood. The next stage was to Memphis, nearly 400
miles. Lyell speaks highly of the accommodation generally afforded by
the river steamers, but found the inquisitiveness of his American
fellow-travellers rather a nuisance, and the spoiled children a still
greater one. The former drawback to pleasure has certainly abated during
the last half-century, but whether the latter has done the same may
perhaps be disputed. New Madrid, 170 miles above Memphis, called for a
longer halt, for the neighbouring district had suffered from a great
earthquake in the year 1811, when shocks were felt at intervals for
about three months, the ground was cracked, water mingled with sand was
spouted out, yawning fissures opened (in one case draining a lake),
portions of the river cliff were shaken down into the stream, and a
large district--about 2,000 square miles in area--was permanently
depressed. Some traces of the earthquake, in addition to the last-named,
could still be recognised at the time of Lyell's visit, though more than
thirty years had elapsed.

At Cairo, above New Madrid, the Ohio joins the Mississippi, and it was
ascended to Mount Vernon. The geology now became a little more varied,
for beneath the shelly loam already mentioned Carboniferous strata make
their appearance, in which fossil plants are sometimes abundant and
upright trees now and then occur. For nearly 200 miles higher up the
Ohio, rocks of this age are exposed at intervals, till at last, near
Louisville, those belonging to the Devonian system rise from beneath
them. These, at New Albany, contain a fossil coral-reef, exposed in the
bed of the river and crowded with specimens in unusually good
preservation. At Cincinnati the travellers came at last upon old ground,
and journeyed thence by steamer to Pittsburg. About thirty-two miles
from this town, at a place called Greensburg, some remarkable footprints
had been discovered on slabs of stone not many months before Lyell's
visit, but as the beds on which they occurred belonged to the coal
measures doubt had been expressed as to their being genuine, so he went
thither to satisfy himself on this point. The footprints had disturbed
the peace of Pittsburg, for they had started discussions in which one
party had assumed, as matters of course, the high antiquity of the
earth and the great changes in its living tenants, and had thus incurred
the censure--which in some cases was followed by professional
injury--not only of the multitude, but also of some of the Roman
Catholic and Lutheran clergy. Commenting on this episode, Lyell quotes
with approbation the words of a contemporary author,[115] which even at
the present time occasionally need to be remembered:--"To nothing but
error can any truth be dangerous; and I know not where else there is to
be seen so altogether tragical a spectacle, as that religion should be
found standing in the highways to say 'Let no man learn the simplest
laws of the universe, lest they mislearn the highest. In the name of God
the Maker, who said, and hourly yet says, "Let there be light," we
command that you continue in darkness!'"

The travellers crossed the Alleghany Mountains in their way to
Philadelphia. But a piece of work in Virginia had been left unfinished
on the last occasion--the examination of the Jurassic coalfield near
Richmond. So he set off thither, leaving Mrs. Lyell in Philadelphia, and
took the opportunity of examining the Tertiary deposits near the former
town and the Eocene strata on the Potomac River. On his return they went
to Burlington, which they reached in the first week in May, just as the
humming-birds were arriving in hundreds, and by the 7th of the month
they were in New York. The age of the so-called Taconic Group--a
question of which so much has been heard of late years--was then
beginning to attract attention, so Lyell went in company with some
American geologists to Albany in the hope of solving the problem. This
he trusted he had done, but as his conclusions now would be deemed
unsatisfactory, they need not be quoted. In reality, the question at
that time was not even ripe for discussion.

On the homeward journey he turned aside at Boston to visit Wenham Lake,
from which much ice was being supplied to London, and then they left for
England by a steam packet which touched at Halifax. Four days after
leaving this place they passed among a "group of icebergs several
hundreds in number, varying in height from 100 to 200 feet," many of
them picturesque in form, some even fantastic. Stones were resting on
one of them, but as a rule they were perfectly clean and dazzlingly
white, except on the wave-worn parts, which, as usual, were a beautiful
blue. These, and a fine aurora borealis on the next night, were the only
incidents of the voyage, and on June 13th, in twelve and a half days
from Boston, the vessel reached Liverpool.

The close of this journey marks an epoch in Lyell's life. It was the
last--unless we except his visit to Madeira--of his long wanderings for
the purpose of questioning Nature face to face, and of studying her
under various aspects and diverse conditions. He did not, indeed, cease
to travel. He twice returned to America, he revisited Sicily and various
parts of Europe, but these journeys not only occupied less time but also
led him among scenes for the most part not unfamiliar. He doubtless felt
that on reaching his fiftieth year he might fairly regard the more
laborious part of his education completed, although he never ceased to
be a learner, even to the latest days of his life, when strength had
failed and memory was becoming weak.

An account of the above-named journey was published in 1849, under the
title of "A Second Visit to the United States of North America." This
book, in addition to descriptions of the scenery and the geology of the
country, contains much general information about the people, with
remarks by the author on various political questions, such as the
condition of parties, the effects of almost universal suffrage,
particularly on the national sense of honour and morality, the existence
and evils of slavery, the state of religious feeling, the position of
Churches, and the systems of education, especially when contrasted with
those of England. Some of these questions about this time were exciting
much attention in Great Britain, and in regard to one matter--the
delimitation of the territories of the two nations in the region west of
the Rocky Mountains--friction existed, which was so serious that more
than once war seemed possible. On this account, probably, the "Second
Visit" was a greater success, commercially speaking, than the "Travels,"
for it reached a third edition.


[105] Chapters xiv. and xxix.

[106] "The Girvan Succession," Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc., xxxviii. (1882),
p. 537.

[107] The capelin (_Mallotus villosus_), which still lives in the

[108] It was also seen the following year on the coast of Virginia, and
on that of Norway in both 1845 and 1846.

[109] He says that the alleged sea-serpent washed ashore at Stronsa
(Orkneys) in 1808 is proved by the bones (some of which are preserved)
to have been this animal.

[110] The formation, however, does not belong to the Carboniferous
system, but is shown by its fossils to be Jurassic in age.

[111] It is described and figured in later editions of the "Principles
of Geology," chap. xv. (eleventh edition).

[112] A species of _Gnathodon_.

[113] _Gnathodon cuneatus._

[114] A bayou is the name given to an old channel of the river. When the
latter is making a series of horseshoe curves, the stream often cuts
through the neck of land which separates its nearest parts. The water
then takes the shortest course, the entrances to the old channel are
silted up, and it becomes a horseshoe-shaped pool.

[115] T. Carlyle ("Letter on Secular Education").



The "Principles of Geology" had been completed and published for
thirteen years, yet catastrophism, as we learn from a correspondence
with Edward Forbes,[116] dated September, 1846, was dying hard.
"Agassiz, Alcide D'Orbigny, and their followers [were still] trying to
make out sudden revolutions in organic life in support of equally
hypothetical catastrophes in the physical history of the globe."[117] A
remark in Forbes's reply is striking:--

      "You are pleased to compliment my paper on its
      _originality_. Any praise from you must ever be among the
      greatest gratifications to me, and to any honest labourer in
      the great field of Nature. But I had rather hear the views I
      have set forward be proved _not original_ than the contrary.
      It seems to me that the surest proof of the _truth_ of such
      conclusions as I have summed up at the end of my essay is
      the fact of their not being _original_ so far as _one_
      person is concerned, and of their having become manifest to
      _more than one_ mind, either about the same time or
      successively, without communication. I believe laws discover
      themselves to individuals, and not that individuals discover
      laws. If a law have truth in it, many will see it about the
      same time."

In this month also the Lyells removed from Hart Street to 11, Harley
Street. The house where they had spent fourteen years very happily was
not left without regret, but it had become too small. They had no
children, but a rapidly increasing geological collection takes up almost
as much room as (though it is much more silent than) a growing family.
The removal of a geological collection is a laborious business; and,
besides this, Lyell was preparing a new edition of the "Principles" and
writing a book about his recent travels in America. Still, to judge from
his letters, he found time for some pleasant social distractions; for
his letters to the old home at Kinnordy contain more often than formerly
interesting references to talks with such men as Macaulay, Milman, and
Rogers, Lord Clarendon and Lord Lansdowne. The seventh edition of the
"Principles," condensed into a bulky single volume, was published early
in 1847, and in the following June Lyell attended the meeting of the
British Association at Oxford, which appears to have been no less
pleasant than successful, although "out of twenty-four Heads of Houses
only four were at Oxford to receive the Association." On this occasion,
he writes, he became better acquainted with "Ruskin, who was secretary
of our Geological Section." The remainder of this summer was spent in
Scotland, and the rest of the year, with most of the following one, was
devoted to quiet work. Still, Lyell took an active part in a crisis
through which, about this time, the Royal Society was passing. A number
of the Fellows, including most of those eminent in science, were anxious
to raise the standard for admission into the Society. For many years
past the "three letters" had often signified little more than an
indication of good means and social position, coupled with a certain
interest in scientific pursuits. The reformers prevailed, after a long
struggle "with a set of obstructives compared with whom Metternich was
a progressive animal," and the present _status_ of the society is the
result. Incidental remarks in Lyell's letters to his relations also
indicate that he was becoming well known in circles other than
scientific, of which a further proof was given in the autumn of 1848,
when he received the offer of knighthood. Of course, in any country
where "orders of merit" exist, other than Great Britain, Lyell would
have been "decorated" years ago, but we manage things differently. As a
rule, we let science and literature be their own reward, and, as an
exception, confer the same distinction on a man who has won a world-wide
reputation (provided he is fairly rich) and on an opulent tradesman who
is accidently prominent on some auspicious occasion, or is a local
wirepuller in party politics. Lyell went over from Kinnordy to Balmoral
to receive the intended honour, and had, as he writes, "a most agreeable
geological exploring on the banks of the Dee, into which Prince Albert
entered with much spirit." In February, 1849, he was elected for the
second time President of the Geological Society, and in the autumn, when
at Kinnordy, was again invited to Balmoral, where he had some
interesting talks with Prince Albert on subjects ranging from various
educational and broad political questions to the entomology of
Switzerland, Scotland, and the Isle of Wight.

In the middle of September he attended the meeting of the British
Association at Birmingham, where he was for the third time President of
the Geological Section. A few weeks later his father, whose health had
been for some time failing, died at Kinnordy.[118] The latter was a
rich man, but as he made liberal provision for his daughters and younger
sons, Sir Charles, though he succeeded to a considerable estate, found
himself unable to afford the expense of keeping up Kinnordy as well as a
house in London. Which, then, was henceforth to be his home? The
attractions of Kinnordy were obvious, but the long distance from the
metropolis was a serious drawback, while the duties of a resident
landlord would have interfered much with his geological work, which
would have been still more hampered by the severance from libraries,
museums, and intercourse with fellow-workers. Thus he felt it his duty
to retain his house in London and to let Kinnordy, though, as his mother
and sisters retreated to the "dower house," he was able from time to
time to visit the old place. The decision probably was less painful than
it otherwise would have been from the fact that his boyhood had been
spent in England. At any rate, it was a wise one, in regard to both his
own reputation and the progress of science in general.

In the summer of 1850, Sir Charles augmented his experience and
refreshed old memories by a tour in Germany. During this he saw for the
first time the Roth-todt-liegende or Lower Permian conglomerates at
Halle and at Eisenach, as well as the great lava streams which had
supplied them with so much of their materials. Also he went to the
Brocken in order to examine into Von Buch's extraordinary assertion that
the granite had "come up in a bubble." This, it is needless to say, was
speedily pricked. The loess also, that singular deposit which wraps
like a mantle so much of the undulating ground in Northern Germany,
evidently engaged his attention, and we find the fruits of these studies
in a later work. In addition to all this, he did more than glance at the
Maestricht Chalk, the "Wealden" coal of Hanover, the Tertiary deposits
near Berlin, the Palæozoic rocks of the Hartz, and the scenery of the
Saxon Switzerland.

His books, his scientific papers, and Presidential addresses to the
Geological Society, his duties as a commissioner, at first for the
Exhibition of 1851, and somewhat later for the reform of the University
of Oxford, kept him pretty well employed till August, 1852, when he for
the third time crossed the Atlantic to deliver another course of
lectures at the Lowell Institute, Boston. Though he was back in England
before Christmas, he found time for some geological work in America, the
most important item in which was an excursion from Halifax in company
with his old acquaintance, Mr. J. W. Dawson, to the Nova Scotian
coalfield. On this occasion he passed through a fair amount of country
still uncleared, which made the journey more interesting; he had also
opportunities of appreciating the effects of ice in moving and piling up
boulders on the shores of lakes, and obtained still more evidence in
regard to this, on reaching the sea-coast in the neighbourhood of the
coalfield. But their labour was rewarded by one discovery of exceptional
importance. In the trunk of a tree which had died and become hollow in a
forest of the Carboniferous period, they found entombed the skeleton of
an animal. Whether this were a fish or a reptile was at first hotly
disputed, but finally it proved to be an amphibian.

On his return to England, Sir Charles was kept for some time fully
employed by the preparation of the ninth edition of the "Principles,"
but early in the summer of 1853 he went for the fourth time to
America--on this occasion in company with Lord Ellesmere--as
commissioner to the Exhibition held at New York. But now his time was
fully taken up by official duties, and his visit was a short one, for he
returned before the end of July, and was soon afterwards invited to
visit Osborne and give some account of his journey to the Queen and
Prince Albert.

Very early in 1854 he again left England, in company with Lady Lyell and
Mr. and Mrs. Bunbury, to visit Madeira. Some three weeks were devoted to
a careful study of the geology of that island,[119] partly with the view
of determining whether it afforded any support to Von Buch's favourite
notion that volcanic cones were mainly formed by upheaval. As might be
anticipated, the evidence was distinctly unfavourable. The island was
proved to be mainly composed of volcanic material, cones of basaltic
scoria, and great flows of similar lava, which had been piled
successively one on another in the open air to a depth of about 4,000
feet. This mass had been subsequently pierced by dykes, worn by storm
and stream, and in one or two places deeply grooved by rivers. There
were, indeed, some underlying beds of marine origin, which, in one part
of the island, rose to a height of 1,200 feet above the sea, and thus
indicated a certain amount of upheaval; but even this was not of the
kind which Von Buch's hypothesis required, while the rest of the
evidence, including that afforded by some tuffs containing fossil
plants, proved that the major part of the island had been formed above

From Madeira they went on to Teneriffe, Palma, and the Grand Canary. Of
this part of the journey few details are given, but the results were
afterwards incorporated with one of his books.[120] To the Peak of
Teneriffe the reference is comparatively brief. Of Palma the account is
much fuller, for this island had been regarded by Von Buch, who visited
it in 1825, as a type of his "craters of elevation"--an idea which was
dispelled by Lyell's investigation. The Grand Canary, like Madeira,
proved to be formed of masses of subaërial volcanic rock, perhaps even
thicker than those in Madeira, which also rested upon some upraised
marine deposits of Miocene age.

In the course of 1854 Sir Charles received from his own University the
honorary degree of D.C.L. Much time was spent in working up the results
of his last journey, some of which were communicated to the Geological
Society.[121] In the spring of 1855 he went to the Continent, studying,
among other matters, the drifts in the neighbourhood of Berlin. In the
summer he visited Scotland, made the acquaintance of Hugh Miller, worked
over Arthur's Seat, Blackford Hill, and "the coast of Fife from Kinghorn
to Kirkcaldy." It would be hard to find a set of sections better
adapted for the study of ancient volcanic rocks, both contemporaneous
and intrusive, than this coast affords; and his experience in Madeira
and the Canaries enabled him to regard "the Edinburgh and Fife rocks
with very different eyes."

One or two of his published letters about this period have a special
interest, for they show that his views on the origin of species were
undergoing a gradual modification. Speaking of some strange variations
in the flower of an orchideous plant,[122] he refers, half in jest, to
"ugly facts, as Hooker, clinging (like me) to the orthodox faith, calls
these and other abnormal vagaries"; and again, the following sentences
do not come from a man who is firm in his belief[123]:--

      "When Huxley, Hooker, and Wollaston were at Darwin's last
      week, they (all four of them) ran a tilt against species
      further, I believe, than they are deliberately prepared to
      go--Wollaston least unorthodox. I cannot easily see how they
      can go so far, and not embrace the whole Lamarckian
      doctrine. Huxley held forth last week about the oxlip, which
      he says is unknown on the Continent. If we had met with it
      in Madeira and nowhere else, or the cowslip, should we not
      have voted them true species? Darwin finds, among his
      fifteen varieties of the common pigeon, three good genera
      and about fifteen good species, according to the received
      mode of species and genus-making of the best ornithologists,
      and the bony skeleton varying with the rest! After all, did
      we not come from an ourang, seeing that man is of the Old
      World, and not from the American type of anthropomorphous

Sir Charles and Lady Lyell were again on the Continent in the summer of
1856, examining the drifts of Northern Germany, visiting Humboldt at
Berlin, discussing geological questions, especially in regard to
Carboniferous plants, at Breslau with Roemer and Goeppert; working over
the Riesengebirge; then going on to Dresden, and passing through the
Saxon Switzerland to Aussig. The coalfield north-west of the former city
was not neglected, the great breccia beds of the Rothliegende were again
examined, and account was taken of Ramsay's opinion that certain British
Permian breccias were glacial in origin. Close attention was also
bestowed upon the great masses of hard quartzose grit, through which the
Elbe has carved its way--the Quader of Saxony; for this formation, "a
grit wholly deficient in calcareous matter, corresponds to the more
purely calcareous rock (Chalk) of Great Britain, and yet contains here
and there the same shells." He did not neglect the Brown Coal[124]
between Töplitz and Aussig, and, on reaching Prague, made the
acquaintance of Barrande, who took him to see those older Palæozoic
rocks among which the great palæontologist had been labouring for nearly
a quarter of a century. Then the travellers proceeded to Vienna, and
after that to the Styrian Alps, to visit various interesting sections in
the Salzkammergut, such as the classic ground at Gosau and the Triassic
limestones near Hallstadt, where the last survivors of the Palæozoic
ages are entombed with the representatives of the period. His letters,
like many others of earlier date, indicate that, notwithstanding the
fascinations of geology, neither living molluscs, nor insects, nor
plants had ceased to interest. They returned by way of Munich, Ulm,
Zürich and Paris, reaching England about the end of October.

The summer of 1857 was devoted to another Continental tour, rather more
restricted than the former, but by no means unimportant. They went
leisurely through Belgium and up the Rhine into Switzerland, halting at
different places either to study sections of special interest or to
confer with eminent geologists. Part of a letter written at this
time[125] gives a valuable insight into the intention of these journeys
and the character of the author, who was now in his sixtieth year:--

      "I hope to continue for years travelling, making original
      observations, and, above all, going to school to the
      younger, but not, for all that, young geologists, whom I
      meet everywhere, so far ahead of us old stagers that they
      are familiar with branches of the science, fast rising into
      importance, which were not thought of when I first began."

Switzerland, obviously, was visited on this occasion with a very
definite purpose. De Charpentier, Escher von der Linth, and other local
geologists, had been for some time asserting that the glaciers of the
Alps, at no remote epoch in geological history, had attained to an
enormous size, had buried the Swiss lowland and covered it with morainic
deposits, and had even welled up high against the flanks of the Jura,
where the huge blocks of protogine from the Mont Blanc range--such as
Pierre à bot and its companion erratics, full 800 feet above the Lake of
Neuchâtel--indicated one position of its terminal moraine. Formerly, in
common with many other geologists, Sir Charles had supposed these blocks
to have been transported from the Alpine peaks by ice-rafts on the sea,
at a time when the whole region stood at a considerably lower level. But
now, after examining the erratics, their regular and significant
distribution, the other glacial débris, the ice-worn surfaces of rock
beneath it, and ascertaining the distinctly terrestrial character of the
deposits all about the mountains, he unreservedly admitted land-ice to
be the only possible agent, and, in accepting this hypothesis, perceived
clearly that he must not shrink from applying it to Scotland. Then he
plunged into the mountains to examine and follow the track of the
retreating ice-sheet up to the glaciers which are still at work among
the higher peaks, passing up the valley of the Reuss, crossing the Furka
Pass, and descending the Rhone valley to Visp, but turning aside to
examine the earth pillars on the flank of the Eggishorn.[126] Another,
and a larger group of these pillars--instances of the erosive action of
rain-water on morainic material--was seen near Stalden, in the
Visp-thal; but these had been damaged by the earthquake which two years
before had severely shaken this part of the Alps. At Zermatt the
characteristics of glaciers and the effects of ice were carefully
studied among the grandest of Alpine scenery; then, on returning to the
Rhone Valley, they crossed the Alps by the Simplon and went on to Turin.
Here he took the opportunity of visiting the huge moraine near Ivrea,
which rises from the lowland like a range of hills, and of
investigating the erratics of the Superga, satisfying himself that they
really belonged to the Miocene deposits of that hill, and were
indicative of the existence of glaciers in the Alps of that epoch, which
had been large enough to reach the sea-level, and to send off masses of
ice laden with boulders. Then they went on to Genoa, and along the
beautiful Riviera di Levante to Pisa; thence, after a short visit to
Florence, proceeding direct from Leghorn to Naples. Here, he once more
examined Vesuvius, and had the luck to see lava streams actually in
motion--"some going fast, others going very slow"--a sight which "gave
him many new ideas." A study also of the dykes of Somma convinced him
that they afforded no support to De Beaumont's idea of a distension of
the mass.[127]

From Naples he went to Sicily, in order to make a second examination of
Etna, and then, after rejoining Lady Lyell, spent some time in the
neighbourhood of Rome, visiting the old volcanic district of the Alban
Hills, and making excursions, as they travelled northward, into the
Apennines. They returned through France, reaching London towards the end
of December.

But, for a worker so thorough in his methods, this visit to the
volcanoes was not enough, so next year, after spending the earlier part
of the summer with his brother's[128] family in the neighbourhood of
Darmstadt, he left Lady Lyell there, and set off towards the end of
August for a third examination both of Vesuvius and of Etna. Travelling
rapidly up the valley of the Rhine, he went by Geneva to Culoz, and over
Mont Cenis to Turin and Genoa, without halting for geological work, and
thence by sea to Naples. Lava was still flowing from Vesuvius, that
black mass, with its strange rope-like folds and slaggy wrinkles,[129]
now so well known to every visitor. Accompanied by Professor
Guiscardi--one of the most genial and helpful of leaders--Sir Charles
made his way to a vent at the base of the principal cone, where the lava
was still welling forth from "a small grotto, looking as fluid as water
where it first issued, and moving at a pace which you would call rapid
in a river. White-hot, at first, in a canal four or five feet broad,
then red before it had got on a yard, then in a few feet beginning to be
covered by a dark scum, which thickened fast and was carried along on
the surface." But the great question, whether a volcano was mainly a
"crater of elevation" or a "crater of ejection," was ever present to his
mind; so, in addition to studying the grand sections displayed in the
crags of Monte Somma, he devoted two days to the exploration of the
ravines which furrow its outer slopes. He also found time to have
another look at the Temple of Serapis, and to examine the Solfatara,
which is a striking example of a crater at once broad and low.

After a week's halt at Naples, Sir Charles resumed his journey to
Sicily, landing at Messina on September 10th. By the 15th he was once
more on the slopes of Etna, and had begun a twelve-day period of hard
work on the mountain, passing five nights in very rough quarters at the
Casa degli Inglesi, 9,600 feet above sea-level. During this stay he
ascended the principal cone, carefully examining both the larger and the
smaller craters, and descended into the Val del Bove, a laborious
expedition, but one which well repaid him by throwing much light on the
structure of the volcanic mass. Still he was not yet satisfied, for
after he had descended to Zafarana, he returned to spend another night
at the Casa degli Inglesi in order to satisfy himself about one or two
details. From Zafarana also he went again to the Val del Bove, checking
and increasing his notes, and devoted another day to a most interesting
excursion through picturesque scenery as far as the watershed between
this vast hollow in the mountain side and the neighbouring Val di
Tripodo. On all these excursions Sir Charles, as far as possible, rode,
remarking to his wife, "I feel here that a good mule is like presenting
an old geologist with a young pair of legs." Work on the mountain ended,
he spent a little time in examining the Tertiary beds of the
neighbouring lowland, and then, getting back to Messina about the middle
of October, returned in due course to England.

These two journeys in succession greatly augmented his knowledge of the
structure of volcanic cones, and enabled him to deal the death-blow to
the "crater of elevation" hypothesis which had found such favour among
Continental geologists. He could now prove that lava would solidify in a
compact form on slopes of thirty-five or even forty degrees--a fact
which had been stoutly denied by advocates of that hypothesis, and was
able to offer an explanation of the singular structure of the Val del
Bove, viz. that it was a huge gulf, formed by a series of mighty
explosions, similar to those which shattered half of the old crater of
Vesuvius,[130] and sent one side of Bandai San[131] flying through the
air. He returned to England satisfied that his feet were on firm ground,
if such a phrase be permissible in regard to a volcano, and that the
results[132] of this conscientious labour in the fulness of his age had
strengthened him in the position which he had adopted in his scientific

In the next year (1859) Lyell also travelled, though the journeys were
not so lengthy as their two predecessors. Still, in the spring he
visited both Holland and Le Puy in Auvergne, and in the earlier part of
the autumn attended the meeting of the British Association at Aberdeen,
under the presidency of Prince Albert. A strong body of geologists were
present, and Lyell was for the fourth time in the chair of the
Geological Section, the Prince coming to hear his address. Among the old
friends whom he met was one who would have been a suitable husband for
the famous Countess of Desmond, for Lyell writes of him to Mrs. Horner,
his wife's mother, "Dr. F. at ninety-four looks well enough, but having
eaten turtle-soup, and melon too close to the rind, and other
imprudences, is not quite well to-day!" _O dura Doctorum ilia!_ The
meeting ended, Lyell with some geological friends went off to Elgin to
examine the sandstone quarried at Cutties Hillock, near that town. The
rock closely resembles the ordinary Old Red Sandstone; it seemed at
first sight to form a continuous mass, yet in one place it contained a
fossil fish belonging to that period, and in another the remains of a
reptile (_Telerpeton_). After some days of careful study, the Rev. W. S.
Symonds, who was one of the party, came to the conclusion (which has
been fully ratified by later investigations) that the deposits were of
different ages; the one with the fish being truly "Old Red," the other,
with the reptile, "New Red." The chief cause of the puzzle is that the
sand which has been derived from the older rock has gone to form the
newer one, and that the usual indications of a discontinuity are
practically absent. It affords a valuable caution, for it shows that
Nature sometimes does set traps, which might well catch even the most
wary geologist.

In the same autumn Lyell read Darwin's great work on "The Origin of
Species," by which his scientific position was finally determined, for
his letters show that, if any objection to the leading principles in his
friend's views had still lingered in his mind, they were overcome by the
perusal of this masterly specimen "of close reasoning and long sustained


[116] In reference to an essay written by him on the connection between
the fauna and flora of the British Isles and geological changes.
("Memoirs of the Geological Survey," i. p. 336.)

[117] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol ii. p. 110.

[118] He died November 8th, 1849.

[119] He had the advantage of the company of Mr. C. Hartung, who was an
excellent naturalist and well acquainted with the island.

[120] "Elements of Geology" (sixth edition), pp. 621-635.

[121] "On the Geology of Some Parts of Madeira" (Quart. Jour. Geol.
Soc., x. p. 325).

[122] In a letter to Mr. Bunbury, dated November 13th, 1854 (Life,
Letters, and Journals, vol. ii. p. 199). It is written from 53, Harley
Street, one in the previous August bearing the superscription of 11,
Harley Street, so that he appears (though there is no allusion to this
in his published letters or journals) to have removed into another house
in the same street. The number of this was subsequently altered.

[123] Another letter to Mr. Bunbury, dated April 30th, 1856 (_ibid._, p.

[124] This deposit belongs to the Tertiary era (Oligocene system).

[125] Life, Letters, and Journals, ii. p. 243.

[126] The largest, called the Zwerglithurn, is about one and a half
hours walk above Viesch.

[127] This had been asserted in support of the hypothesis of "craters of

[128] Colonel Lyell had retired from the army and returned to England a
short time before the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny.

[129] _See_ Professor J. W. Judd: "Volcanoes" (International Scientific
Series), Fig. 22.

[130] In the famous eruption of A.D. 79.

[131] A volcano of Japan.

[132] These results are worked into the tenth edition of the
"Principles" (chaps. xxv. and xxvi.). _See also_ a paper on Stony Lava
on Steep Slopes of Etna (Proc. Roy. Soc. 1858, ix. p. 248). He received
the Copley Medal from the Royal Society in November.



Though many men on reaching their sixty-third year are content to rest
upon their oars and not to attempt new ventures, Lyell had plunged into
a question which was arousing almost as much excitement as the origin of
species--namely, the antiquity of man. It was a question, indeed, which
for a long time must have been before his mind--witness his remarks on
Dr. Schmerling's work in the caves near Liége; but it had assumed a
special significance owing to the famous discovery of flint implements
in the valley of the Somme.[133] The whole subject also would have a
special interest for Lyell, because he had made Tertiary deposits his
special field in stratigraphy, and had worked at this subject downwards,
comparing extinct with living forms, so that he had seen more than
others of the borderland which blends by an insensible transition the
province of the geologist with that of the archæologist. Probably also
the thought which he had been giving to the question of the origin of
species would bring into no less vivid prominence that of the age and
origin of the human race. Be this as it may, he undertook a task
comparatively novel, and for the next three years was fully occupied in
the preparation of his third great book, "The Antiquity of Man." Travel
was necessary for this purpose also; but as the journeys were less
lengthy than those already described, and led him for the most part over
old ground, it is needless to enter into details. He visited the gravels
of the Somme Valley and the caves on the Meuse, besides other parts of
Northern France and Belgium,[134] the gravel pits near Bedford, and
various localities in England, examining into the evidence for himself,
and paying particular attention, not only to the question of man's
antiquity, but also to the supposed return of a warmer climate than now
prevails after the era of glacial cold. The book was published early in
1863. Naturally its conclusions were startling to many and were
vigourously denounced by some; but it was a great success, for it ran
through three editions in the course of the year. A fourth and enlarged
edition was published in 1873.

The book may seem, from the literary critic's point of view, rather
composite in character, and this objection was made in a good-natured
form by a writer in the _Saturday Review_,[135] who called it "a trilogy
on the antiquity of man, ice, and Darwin." That, however, is but a
slight blemish, if blemish it be, and it was readily pardoned, because
of the general interest of the book, the clearness of its style, and the
lucidity of its reasoning.

In accordance with his usual plan of work--proceeding tentatively from
the known to the unknown--Lyell begins with times nearest to the
present era and facts of which the interpretation is least open to
dispute. He conducts his reader at the outset to the peat mosses of
Denmark, where weapons of iron, bronze, and stone lie in a kind of
stratified order; and to those mounds of shells, the refuse heaps of a
rude people, which are found on the Baltic shore. Next he places him on
the site of the pile-built villages which once fringed the shores of
Swiss and Italian lakes. Here weapons of iron, of bronze, and of stone
are hidden in peat or scattered on the lake-bed. But these log-built
settlements, such as those which Herodotus described at Lake Prasias in
Roumelia, are not the only remnants of an almost prehistoric people, for
nearer home we find analogous constructions in the crannoges of
Ireland--islets partly artificial, built of timber and stone. Lyell then
passes on from Europe to the valleys of the Nile and Mississippi, and so
to the "carses" of Scotland. In the last case canoes buried in the
alluvial deposits, as in the lowland by the Clyde, indicate that some
physical changes, slight though they may be, have occurred since the
coming of man. But none of these researches lead us back into a very
remote past; they keep us still lingering, as it were, on the threshold
of history. The weapons which have been described, even if made of
stone, exhibit a considerable amount of mechanical skill, for many of
them are fashioned and polished with much care, while they are
associated with the remains of creatures which are still living at no
great distance, if not in the immediate vicinity. Accordingly he
conducts his reader, in the next place, to the localities where ruder
weapons only have been found, fashioned by chipping, and never
polished--namely, to the caves of Belgium and of Britain, of Central and
of Southern France, and to the gravel beds in the valleys of the Somme
and the Seine, of the Ouse and other rivers of Eastern and Southern
England. These furnish abundant evidence that man was contemporary with
several extinct animals, such as the mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros,
or with others which now inhabit only arctic regions, such as the
reindeer and the musksheep, and that the valleys since then have been
deepened and altered in contour. This evidence, stratigraphical as well
as palæontological, proves that important changes have occurred since
man first appeared, not only in climate, but also in physical geography.

The Glacial Epoch is the subject of the second part of the book. Its
pages contain an admirable sketch of the deposits assigned to that age
in Eastern England, Scandinavia, the Alps, and North America, with
special descriptions of the loess of Northern Europe, the drifts of the
Danish island of Möen, so like those near Cromer, and the parallel roads
of Glenroy, which Lyell now supposes to have been formed in a manner
similar to that of the little terrace by the Märjalen See.

The third part deals with "the origin of species as bearing on man's
place in Nature." It is a recantation of the views which he had formerly
maintained. In all his earlier writings, including the ninth edition of
the "Principles," he had expressed himself dissatisfied with the
hypothesis of the transmutation of species, and had accepted, though
cautiously and not without allowing for considerable power of variation,
that of specific centres of creation. Now, after a full review of the
question, he gives his reasons for abandoning his earlier opinions and
adopting in the main those advocated by Darwin and Wallace.
Nevertheless, through frankly avowing his change of view, he advances
cautiously and tentatively, like a man over treacherous ice--so
cautiously, indeed, that Darwin is not wholly satisfied with his
convert, and chides him good-humouredly for his slow progress and
over-much hesitation. But this very hesitation was as real as the
conversion: the one was the outcome of Lyell's thoroughly judicial habit
of mind, the other was a proof, perhaps the strongest that could be
given, of that mind's freshness, vigour, and candour. The book ends with
a chapter on "man's place in Nature." On this burning question the
author speaks with great caution, but comes to the conclusion that man,
so far as his bodily frame is concerned, cannot claim exception from the
law which governs the rest of the animal kingdom and he ends[136] with a
few words on the theological aspect of the question: "It may be said
that, so far from having a materialistic tendency, the supposed
introduction into the earth, at successive geological periods, of
life--sensation--instinct--the intelligence of the higher mammalia
bordering on reason--and, lastly, the improvable reason of man himself,
presents us with a picture of the ever-increasing dominion of mind over


[133] Found by M. Boucher de Perthes, who had published a book on the
subject in 1847, and had announced the discovery about seven years
earlier; but geologists, for various reasons, were not fully satisfied
on the matter till the visit of Messrs. Prestwich and John Evans (now
Sir) in 1857.

[134] He went to Florence in 1862, but how far this was for geological
work is not stated.

[135] Vol. xv. p. 311.

[136] "Antiquity of Man," chap. xxiv.



The second and third editions of the "Antiquity of Man" were not mere
reprints, since new materials were constantly coming in and researches
were continued; for during the summer of 1863 Sir Charles was rambling
about Wales, visiting the caves of Gower in Pembrokeshire, and of Cefn
in Denbighshire, the peats of Anglesea, and the boulder clay and
shell-bearing sands near the top of Moel Tryfaen. He also went over to
Paris, apparently about this time, to inquire into the authenticity of
specimens--bones with notches upon them--which were supposed to prove
man contemporaneous with the Cromer Forest Beds of England, and
therefore pre-glacial. Shorter journeys were to Osborne (by Royal
command), to Suffolk, and to Kent.

While engaged on the above-named book, he had persistently refused more
than one position of honour--such as a Trusteeship at the British
Museum, to be a candidate for the representation of the University of
London in Parliament, even an honorary degree from the University of
Edinburgh because he was too busy to undertake the journey. In 1861,
also, he seems to have received a warning that he was beginning to grow
old, for he became rather seriously unwell, and was ordered to Kissingen
in Bavaria to take a course of the waters. But during the same period
two acceptable honours were received--namely, the Corresponding
Membership of the Institute of France, in 1862, and an order of
Scientific Merit from the King of Prussia in the following year.

The years, as must be the case when life's evening shadows are
lengthening, begin to be more definitely chequered with losses and with
rewards. In his letters, references to the death of friends become
frequent. In 1862 Mrs. Horner, Lady Lyell's mother, died, and in 1864
her father, Leonard Horner, with whom, even for some years before
becoming his son-in-law, Lyell had been in constant friendly
correspondence, passed away in his eightieth year. In the same year
Lyell was raised to the rank of baronet, and also occupied the
presidential chair at the meeting of the British Association at Bath.

His address deals principally with two topics--one local, thermal
springs, especially those of Bath; the other general, the glacial epoch
and its relation to the antiquity of man. He refers, however, in the
concluding paragraph to the marked change which, within his memory,
opinion had undergone, in regard to catastrophic changes and the origin
of species, and to the discovery of the supposed fossil _Eozoon
Canadense_ in the crystalline Laurentian rocks of Canada. This singular
structure appeared to him--as it did to Sir W. Logan, who had brought
specimens for exhibition at the meeting--to be a fossil organism,[137]
and thus to indicate the existence of living creatures at a much
earlier period than hitherto had been supposed. But in stating this
opinion he checks himself characteristically with these words: "I will
not venture on speculations respecting 'the signs of a beginning,' or
'the prospects of an end' of our terrestrial system--that wide ocean of
scientific conjecture on which so many theorists before my time have
suffered shipwreck."

The address contains more than one passage that is well worth quotation,
but the following has so wide a bearing, and is so significant as to the
effects of early influences, that it should not be forgotten:--

      "When speculations on the long series of events which
      occurred in the Glacial and post-Glacial periods are
      indulged in, the imagination is apt to take alarm at the
      immensity of the time required to interpret the monuments of
      these ages, all referable to the era of existing species. In
      order to abridge the number of centuries which would
      otherwise be indispensable, a disposition is shown by many
      to magnify the rate of change in prehistoric times, by
      investing the causes which have modified the animate and
      inanimate world with extraordinary and excessive energy. It
      is related of a great Irish orator of our day, that when he
      was about to contribute somewhat parsimoniously towards a
      public charity, he was persuaded by a friend to make a more
      liberal donation. In doing so, he apologised for his first
      apparent want of generosity by saying that his early life
      had been a constant struggle with scanty means, and that
      'they who are born to affluence cannot easily imagine how
      long a time it takes to get the chill of poverty out of
      one's bones.' In like manner, we of the living generation,
      when called upon to make grants of thousands of centuries in
      order to explain the events of what is called the modern
      period, shrink naturally at first from making what seems to
      be so lavish an expenditure of past time. Throughout our
      early education we have been accustomed to such strict
      economy in all that relates to the chronology of the earth
      and its inhabitants in remote ages, so fettered have we been
      by old traditional beliefs, that even when our reason is
      convinced and we are persuaded that we ought to make more
      liberal grants of time to the geologist, we feel how hard it
      is to get the chill of poverty out of our bones."[138]

A presidential address to the British Association is no light task; but,
in addition to this, Lyell was now engaged upon a new edition of the
"Elements (or Manual) of Geology," which for some time had been urgently
demanded; the last edition also of the "Principles"--though 5,000 copies
had been printed--was practically exhausted. The former work was cleared
off before the end of the year, the book appearing in January, 1865, and
the latter was at once taken vigorously in hand, as we see from a letter
questioning Sir John Herschel about the earth-pillars on the
Rittnerhorn, near Botzen, and on the influence which changes in the
shape of the earth's orbit and the position of its axis would have upon
climate--a view which had been advocated by Dr. Croll. Lyell, it will be
remembered, had originally regarded geographical conditions as the only
factors which modified climate, but he was evidently impressed by
Croll's argument, and ready, if his mathematics were correct, to admit
astronomical changes as an independent, though probably less potent,
cause of variation.

The Christmas of 1864 and the following New Year were spent in Berlin,
and in the summer of 1865 he had again recourse to Kissingen. Though he
writes that the waters "did him neither harm nor good," he was at any
rate well enough after the "cure" to undertake a rather lengthy tour
with Lady Lyell and his nephew[139] Leonard, in the course of which he
examined for himself the wonderful earth-pillars near Botzen, and
visited the Märjalen See, that pretty lake held up by the ice of the
great Aletsch Glacier, in order to see whether it threw any light on the
origin of the parallel roads of Glenroy. He was satisfied that it did,
for he found there a large terrace "exactly on a level with the col
which separates the valley" occupied by the lake from that of the Viesch
glacier. On his return to England, he writes a long letter to Sir John
Herschel, discussing the origin of these earth-pillars, and making
inquiries as to the precise points from which his friend, more than
forty years before, had made some elaborate drawings. The expedition, as
well as the letter, to quote Lyell's own words, were pretty well for a
man who was "battling with sixty-eight years." He complains, however, of
little more than occasional attacks of lumbago, and a necessity for
taking great care of himself; but his eyes were now more troublesome
than they had been, and for the last year he had been driven to avail
himself of the services of a secretary,[140] with the result that he
seemed to have acquired a new lease of his eyes, and to be able, for
ordinary purposes, to use them almost as well as formerly.

After his return from the Continent Sir Charles was working hard at the
new edition of the "Principles," which obviously gave him much trouble,
for letters still remain which were written to Herschel on questions
relating to climate and astronomy; to Hooker, Wallace, and Darwin on
the transmutation of species, the distribution and migration of plants
and animals, the effects of geographical changes, and even on such
matters as the Triassic reptilia of Elgin and Warwickshire, Central
India and the Cape. At last the first volume of the new and
much-enlarged edition (tenth) was published in November, 1866, the
second volume not appearing till 1868. Few men at that time of life
could have accomplished such a piece of work, especially if they had
been compelled, as Lyell was, to read with the eyes and write with the
hands of others. But even now, in regard to field work, he was still
able to see things for himself, and, though less vigorous than formerly,
to undertake journeys of moderate length. In 1866, in company with his
nephew Leonard, he examined the Glacial and late Tertiary deposits of
the Suffolk coasts; looked once more at the sections of Jurassic rocks
in the Isle of Portland and the neighbourhood of Weymouth, and doubtless
speculated on the origin of the Chesil Bank and of the Fleet. One honour
fell to him in this year, which, doubtless, only the accident of his
long service on the Council had previously kept from him--namely, the
Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society.

In 1867 he was strong enough to visit the Paris Exhibition, after which
he went to Forfarshire, and attended the meeting of the British
Association at Dundee. In the following year he was present at the same
gathering in Norwich, besides making various shorter journeys in England
and spending September in Pembrokeshire with Lady Lyell and his
brother's family,[141] in whose company evidently he took much pleasure.

In the spring of 1868 he was again in the field, examining the splendid
plant remains of Eocene age in the neighbourhood of Bournemouth and
Poole, and the shallow-water deposits of the Purbeck group ripple-marked
and sun-cracked, together with the traces of their ancient forests. Over
these he became as enthusiastic as any young geologist. At this time
also, apparently, he visited the Blackmore Museum[142] at Salisbury, and
himself found reindeer antlers in the neighbouring gravels at Fisherton.
In the autumn they again stayed at Tenby with Colonel Lyell's family,
when one of the latter was attacked by a serious illness. But Sir
Charles was able to take his nephew Leonard to St. David's, and examine
the magnificent sections of fossiliferous Cambrian rocks, under the
guidance of Dr. H. Hicks, whose name is inseparably connected with the
geology of this district.

Comparatively few records are preserved of the last six years of his
life; still they are enough to show that his interest in science never
flagged. The few letters which have been printed show no signs of
declining mental strength. Though his bodily powers had become less
vigorous, though his sight was weak, and his limbs were less firm than
in the olden times, he was by no means ready to be laid altogether on
the shelf. For instance, in the spring of 1869 he went back to the coast
of Suffolk and Norfolk, to resume work which he had been unable to
complete on his last visit.

Starting at Aldborough, where Pliocene deposits are still exposed, from
the Coralline Crag up to the Chillesford group, they examined the coasts
by Southwold and Kessingland to Lowestoft, seeing "a continuous section,
for miles unbroken, of the deposits from the upper part of the Pliocene
to the glacial drift." The Kessingland cliffs afforded good sections of
the "Forest Bed," the deposit which on former occasions he had studied
in the neighbourhood of Cromer. It was covered by several yards of
stratified sand, and that by glacial drift, "with the usual 'boulders'
of chalk, flint, lias, sandstone, and other sedimentaries, with
crystalline rocks from more distant places." Passing on into Norfolk,
they followed this "Forest Bed" and the overlying boulder clay, and they
found in the latter, near Happisburgh, some fragments of sea-shells, and
one perfect valve of _Tellina solidula_ in a band of gravel, "like a
fragment of an old sea-beach," intercalated in the glacial clay. As the
origin of this clay has been, of late years, a subject of dispute, it
may be interesting to quote Sir Charles's conclusion:--"I suppose,
therefore, we must set it down as a marine formation; and underneath it,
from Happisburgh to Cromer, comes the famous lignite bed and submarine
forest, which must have sunk down to allow of the unquestionable glacial
formation being everywhere superimposed."[143]

On revisiting Sherringham (a village about five miles along the coast to
the west of Cromer), he found a striking instance of that "sea change"
to which in his early days he had called attention. "Leonard and I" (he
writes to Sir C. Bunbury) "have just returned from Sherringham, where I
found that the splendid old Hythe pinnacle of chalk, in which the flints
were vertical, between seventy and eighty feet high, the grandest
erratic in the world, of which I gave a figure in the first edition of
my "Principles," has totally disappeared. The sea has advanced on the
lofty cliff so much in the last ten years, that it may well have carried
away the whole pinnacle in the thirty years which have elapsed since our
first visit."

Another letter, bearing date in the next month, to Darwin shows that in
his seventy-second year his mind was fresh and keen as ever. It
discusses an article written by Wallace in the _Quarterly Review_, and
indicates the difference in regard to natural selection between Lyell's
own standpoint and that of his correspondent. The following extract may
serve to show the general tenor of the remarks:--"As I feel that
progressive development in evolution cannot be entirely explained by
natural selection, I rather hail Wallace's suggestion that there may be
a Supreme Will and Power, which may not abdicate its functions of
interference, but may guide the forces and laws of Nature." In another
passage he refers, to a controversy which had been recently started by
Professor (afterwards Sir A.) Ramsay, and over which geologists have been
fighting ever since--viz. whether lake-basins are excavated by glaciers.
The passage is worth quoting, for it puts the issue in a form which
after a quarter of a century is virtually unchanged:--

      "As to the scooping out of lake-basins by glaciers, I have
      had a long, amicable, but controversial correspondence with
      Wallace on that subject, and I cannot get over (as, indeed,
      I have admitted in print) an intimate connection between the
      number of lakes of modern date and the glaciation of the
      regions containing them. But as we do not know how ice can
      scoop out Lago Maggiore to a depth of 2,600 feet, of which
      all but 600 is below the level of the sea, getting rid of
      the rock supposed to be worn away as if it was salt that had
      melted, I feel that it is a dangerous causation to admit in
      explanation of every cavity which we have to account for,
      including Lake Superior. They who use it seem to have it
      always at hand, like the 'diluvial wave or the wave of
      translation,' or the 'convulsion of nature or catastrophe'
      of the old paroxysmists."[144]

In the summer he took a longer tour, going first to Westmoreland and
then to Forfarshire; after which, in company with Lady Lyell and his
nephew, he went to see the old rocks of Ross-shire, above Inchnadamff
and Ullapool, and, as he returned, once more visited the parallel roads
of Glenroy.

But, in the meantime, notwithstanding the difficulties mentioned above,
he still kept working at his books. He was now engaged in modifying the
"Elements of Geology." Of this, to quote the preface afterwards
published, he had published "six editions between the years 1838 and
1865, beginning with a small duodecimo volume, which increased with each
successive edition, as new facts accumulated, until in 1865 it had
become a large and somewhat expensive work." He therefore determined, in
accordance with the advice of friends, "to bring the book back again to
a size more nearly approaching the original, so that it might be within
the reach of the ordinary student." This was done by the omission of
certain theoretical discussions and all such references to Continental
geology as were not absolutely necessary.[145]

In 1870 Sir Charles continued to travel, though within the limits of
these islands, for he made one journey along the coast of North Devon,
and a second one to Scotland, in the course of which he visited the Isle
of Arran, and on his return halted first at Ambleside and then at
Liverpool, to attend the meeting of the British Association, which began
on the 14th of September. The following year he paid an April visit to
Tintagel, the Land's End, and other parts of Cornwall, and in the summer
went to the North of England. Writing from Penrith to Sir C. Bunbury, he
remarks "that he had much enjoyed his 'tour of inspection,' and had
tried to make it a tour of rest, which is difficult." Naturally so, for
he had been working his way from Buxton on the look-out for glacial
deposits and studying especially the stratified drifts on the hills east
of Macclesfield, 1,200 feet above the sea. His remarks on these show
that he appreciated fully both the significance of the marine fossils
which they contain and the theoretical difficulties caused by the
absence of such remains in other deposits, whether in Derbyshire or the
Lake District, or in the lowland between this locality and Moel Tryfaen,
seventy-four miles away.

The tenth edition of the "Principles" had been quickly sold, and Sir
Charles was now employed in the preparation of another one. In this less
change was necessary than on the last occasion; still, the rapid
increase of knowledge, more especially in regard to the temperature and
currents of the sea, obliged him to make considerable alterations in the
parts which dealt with these subjects and with questions of climate, so
that he recast or rewrote five chapters.

It was published in January, 1872; and in the summer of that year, no
doubt in view of a new edition of the "Antiquity of Man," he went to the
south of France, with Lady Lyell and Professor T. M'K. Hughes, to
examine the Aurignac cave. Here several human skeletons had been
discovered some years before, apparently entombed with the bones of
various extinct mammals, such as the cave-bear and lion, the mammoth and
woolly rhinoceros--in short, with a fauna characteristic of the
palæolithic age. But was this really the date of the interment? Some
distinguished geologists were of opinion that, though the cave had been
then occupied by wild beasts, its floor had been disturbed, and the
corpses buried in neolithic times. On this point Lyell was unable to
obtain conclusive evidence, and was obliged to confine himself to a
statement of the facts and arguments on either side of the

Shortly after the publication of this new edition of the "Antiquity of
Man" in January, 1873, an unexpected and irreparable bereavement
darkened the evening of his days. On April 24th Lady Lyell, the
companion and helpmate of forty years, was taken from him after a few
days' illness from an inflammatory cold.[147] The shock was the more
severe because the loss was so unforeseen. Lady Lyell was twelve years
his junior, and had always enjoyed good health[148]--"youthful and
vigorous for her age," as he writes--so that he "never contemplated
surviving her, and could hardly believe it when the calamity happened."
He bore the blow bravely, consoling himself by reflecting that the
separation, at his age--nearly seventy-six--could not be for very long,
and, as he writes to Professor Heer, of Zürich, endeavouring, "by daily
work at my favourite science, to forget as far as possible the dreadful
change which this has made in my existence."

Lady Lyell was a woman of rare excellence. "Strength and sweetness were
hers, both in no common degree. The daughter of Leonard Horner, and the
niece of Francis Horner, her own excellent understanding had been
carefully trained, and she had that general knowledge and those
intellectual tastes which we expect to find in an educated Englishwoman;
and from her childhood she had breathed the refining air of taste,
knowledge, and goodness. Her marriage ... gave a scientific turn to her
thoughts and studies, and she became to her husband, not merely the
truest of friends and the most affectionate and sympathetic of
companions, but a very efficient helper. She was frank, generous, and
true; her moral instincts were high and pure; she was faithful and firm
in friendship; she was fearless in the expression of opinion without
being aggressive; and she had that force of character and quiet energy
of temperament that gave her the power to do all that she had resolved
to do.... She had more than a common share of personal beauty; but had
she not been beautiful she would have been lovely, such was the charm of
her manners, which were the natural expression of warmth and tenderness
of heart, of quick sympathies, and of a tact as delicate as a blind
man's touch."[149]

He was not, however, left to bear in solitude the burden of darkening
sight and of a desolated home. His eldest sister, Miss Lyell, came from
Kinnordy to take care of his house and watch over him in these last
years with an affectionate devotion; and in her company and that of
Professor Hughes he even carried out the plan, which had been already in
contemplation, of once more going on to the Continent and of visiting
Professor Heer, at Zürich.

He worked on, as well as slowly increasing infirmities allowed, after
his return to England, fully occupied in preparing a second edition of
the "Student's Elements" and a new one of the "Principles."[150] In
June, 1874, he again visited Cambridge, this time to receive the degree
of LL.D.--an honour which that University had been strangely slow in
conferring upon him.[151] It was then too evident that his strength was
declining, for he became quickly fatigued by any exertion of body or
mind; nevertheless, he was able soon afterwards to make once more the
journey to Forfarshire, and to visit there several of his earlier
geological haunts. In some of these little excursions he had as his
companion Mr. J. W. Judd,[152] with whose recent researches into the
ruined volcanoes of Tertiary age and the yet earlier stratified rocks in
the Western Isles of Scotland Sir Charles was hardly less interested
than he would have been in the days when the "Principles" was a new
book. Three or four letters written about this time have been
printed[153] which show, from their vigour and freshness, that the mind
was still keen and bright, though the bodily machinery was becoming
outworn. After his return to town he even ventured, on November 5th, to
dine at the Geological Club,[154] of which he had been a member from its
foundation, on its fiftieth anniversary meeting, and "spoke with a
vigour which surprised his friends."

The tale, however, is nearly told; the sands of life were running low.
"His failing eyesight and other infirmities now began to increase
rapidly, and towards the close of the year he became very feeble. But
his spirit was ever alive to his old beloved science, and his
affectionate interest and thought for those about him never failed. He
dined downstairs on Christmas Day with his brother's family, but shortly
after that kept to his room."

On February 22nd, 1875, Charles Lyell entered into his rest. The end may
have been slightly accelerated by two causes--one, the death, from
inflammation of the lungs, after a short illness, of his brother,[155]
Colonel Lyell, who, up to that time, had visited him almost daily; the
other, the shock given to his enfeebled system by accidentally falling
on the stairs a few weeks before. But in no case could it have been long
delayed; the bodily frame was outworn; the hour of rest had come.

His fellow-workers in science felt unanimously that but one place of
sepulture was worthy to receive the body of Charles Lyell--the Abbey of
Westminster, our national Valhalla. A memorial, bearing many important
signatures, was at once presented to Dean Stanley, who gave a willing
consent, and the interment took place with all due solemnity on Saturday
the 27th. The grave was dug in the north aisle of the nave, near that of
Woodward, one of the pioneers of British geology and the founder of the
chair of that science in the University of Cambridge. It is marked[156]
by a slab of Derbyshire marble, which bears this inscription:--

 NOVEMBER 14, 1797;
 FEBRUARY 22, 1875.



Sir Charles, by his will, left to the Geological Society of London the
die, executed by Mr. Leonard Wyon, of a medal to be cast in bronze, and
awarded annually to some geologist of distinction, whether British or
foreign. He further left a sum of two thousand pounds, free of legacy
duty, to the Society, in trust, the interest of it to be applied as
follows:--Not less than one-third of it to accompany the medal, and the
remainder to be given, in one or more portions, for the furtherance of
the science. Sir Charles was succeeded in the family estates by his
nephew Leonard, the eldest son of Colonel Lyell, who lives at Kinnordy,
but has rebuilt the house. He was created a baronet in 1894.


[137] The nature of _Eozoon_, whether it be the remains of a foraminifer
of unusual size and peculiar habit of growth, or merely a very
exceptional arrangement of its constituent minerals, has been since the
above-named date a fruitful subject of controversy. For some years the
balance of opinion was in favour of an organic origin; now it seems to
be distinctly tending in the other direction.

[138] Report of Brit. Assoc., 1864, p. xxiv.

[139] Colonel Lyell's eldest son, the present baronet.

[140] He was fortunate in obtaining the help of Miss Arabella Buckley, a
lady of congenial tastes in literature and science.

[141] The relationship was unusually close, for Colonel Lyell had
married another Miss Horner.

[142] For a description of this fine collection of prehistoric
antiquities, _see_ "Flint Chips," by E. T. Stevens, 1870.

[143] Life, Letters, and Journals, ii. p. 440.

[144] Life, Letters, and Journals, ii. p. 443.

[145] The book, thus abbreviated, and entitled "The Student's Elements
of Geology," was published in 1871. A second edition appeared in
February, 1874; a third, revised by Mr. Leonard Lyell and others, in
1878; and a fourth, edited by Prof. P. M. Duncan, in 1885.

[146] "Antiquity of Man" (fourth edition), chap. vii.

[147] She had been suffering from influenza, but had accompanied her
husband and nephews to Ludlow at the beginning of the month. They became
uneasy at her increasing debility, and returned to town on the 14th
("Life, Letters, and Journal of Sir C. Bunbury," iii. p. 9).

[148] He mentions, on January 5th, 1856, that she had not been well
enough to breakfast with him, "for the second time only since our

[149] Quoted from an obituary notice by G. S. Hillard, Esq., in the
Boston (U.S.) _Daily Advertiser_ (printed in Life, Letters, and
Journals, ii. p. 467).

[150] This was published after his death. He had completed one volume;
the other was revised by his nephew Leonard.

[151] About the same time he was admitted to the freedom of the Turners'
Company in the City of London.

[152] Now Professor Judd, F.R.S., of the Royal College of Science, South

[153] Life, Letters, and Journals, ii. pp. 453-459.

[154] The Club consists of a certain number of Fellows of the Geological
Society, who dine together before the evening meetings.

[155] His brother Thomas, who had retired from the Navy with the rank of
captain, had died (unmarried) some years before at the jointure house
(Shiel Hill), Kinnordy, where he had resided with one of his sisters.

[156] A marble bust, a copy by Theed of the original executed by Gibson,
is placed near the grave.



In stature, Sir Charles Lyell[157] was rather above the middle height,
somewhat squarely built, though not at all stout, with clear-cut,
intellectual features, and a forehead, broad, high, and massive. He
would have been a man of commanding presence, if his extremely short
sight had not obliged him to stoop and peer into anything he wished to
observe. This defect, in addition to the weakness of his eyes was a
serious impediment in field work. As Professor Ramsay remarked in 1851,
after spending a few days with him in the south of England, he required
people to point things out to him, and would have been unable to make a
geological map, "but understood all when explained, and speculated
thereon well."[158] This defect of sight, according to Sir J. W. Dawson,
who had been his companion in more than one excursion in Canada, was at
times even a source of danger. The expression of his face was one of
thoughtful power and gracious benignity.[159] "In his work, Lyell was
very methodical, beginning and ending at fixed hours. Accustomed to make
use of the help of others on account of his weak sight, he was
singularly unconscious of outward bodily movement, though highly
sensitive to pain. When dictating, he was often restless, moving from
his chair to his sofa, pacing the room, or sometimes flinging himself
full length on two chairs, tracing patterns on the floor, as some
thoughtful or eloquent passage flowed from his lips. But though a rapid
writer and dictator, he was sensitively conscientious in the correction
of his manuscript, partly from a strong sense of the duty of accuracy,
partly from a desire to save his publisher the expense of proof
corrections. Hence passages once finished were rarely altered, even
after many years, unless new facts arose."

The characteristic with which anyone who spent some time in Charles
Lyell's company was most impressed, was his thirst for knowledge,
combined with a singular openness, and perfect fairness of mind. He was
absolutely free from all petty pride, and from "that common failing of
men of science, which causes them to cling with such tenacity to
opinions once formed, even in the face of the strongest evidence."[160]
Ramsay wrote of him,[161] "We all like Lyell much; he is anxious for
instruction, and so far from affecting the bigwig, he is not afraid to
learn anything from anyone.[162] The notes he takes are amazing." No
man could have given a stronger proof of candour and plasticity of mind
and of his care for truth alone than Lyell did in dealing with the
question of the origin of species. From the first he approached it
without prejudice. So long as the facts adduced by Lamarck and others
appeared to him insufficient to support their hypotheses, he gave the
preference to some modification of the ordinarily accepted view--that a
species began in a creative act--but after reading Darwin's classic
work,[163] and discussing the subject in private, not only with its
author, but also with Sir J. Hooker and Professor Huxley, he was
convinced that Darwin was right in his main contention, though he held
back in regard to certain minor points, for which he thought the
evidence as yet insufficient. Of his conduct in this matter, Darwin
justly wrote: "Considering his age, his former views, and position in
society, I think his action has been heroic."[164] Dean Stanley, in the
pulpit of Westminster Abbey, on the Sunday following the funeral, summed
up in a few eloquent sentences the great moral lesson of Lyell's life.
"From early youth to extreme old age it was to him a solemn religious
duty to be incessantly learning, fearlessly correcting his own mistakes,
always ready to receive and reproduce from others that which he had not
in himself. Science and religion for him not only were not divorced, but
were one and indivisible."[165]

To ascertain the truth, and to be led by reason not by impulse, that was
Lyell's great aim. Sedgwick once[166] criticised his work in terms
which, in one respect, seem to me curiously mistaken: "Lyell ... is an
excellent and thoughtful writer, but not, I think, a great field
observer ... his mind is essentially deductive not inductive." The
former criticism, as has been already admitted, is just, but the latter,
_pace tanti viri_, seems to me the reverse of the truth. Surely there
never was a geologist whose habits and methods were more strictly
inductive than Lyell's. He would spare no pains, and hardly any expense,
to ascertain for himself what the facts were; he abstained from drawing
any conclusion until he had accumulated a good store; he compared and
marshalled them, and finally adopted the interpretation with which they
seemed most accordant. This interpretation, however, would be modified,
or even rejected, if new and important facts were discovered. Surely
this is the method of induction; surely this is the mode of reasoning
adopted by Darwin and by Newton, and even by Bacon himself. But
Sedgwick, great man as he was, almost unrivalled in the field, more
brilliant, though less persevering than Lyell, was not always quite free
from prejudices; and it may be noted that he more than once stigmatises
an opinion which he dislikes by declaring it not to be in accordance
with inductive methods. Sir Joseph Hooker's judgment was far more
accurate: "One of the most philosophical of geologists, and one of the
best of men"[167]; or that of Charles Darwin himself: "The science of
geology is enormously indebted to Lyell--more so, as I believe, than to
any other man who ever lived."[168]

Lyell felt a keen interest in the broader aspect of political questions,
and this not only in his own country,[169] though he took little or no
share in party struggles, for the vulgarity of the demagogue and the
coarseness of the hustings were offensive to a man of such refinement.
His opinions harmonised with his scientific habits of thought, always
progressive, but never extravagant. He was in favour of greater freedom
in education, of the restriction of class privileges, and of an
extension of the franchise, but he saw clearly that anything like
universal suffrage, as the world is at present constituted, would only
mean giving a preponderating influence to those least competent to wield
it; that is, to the more ignorant and easily deluded. As in such cases
the glib tongue would become more potent than the voice of reason, the
demagogue than the statesman, he feared that the standard of national
honour would be almost inevitably lowered, and national disaster be a
probable result. That all men are equal and entitled to an equal share
in the government--a dogma now regarded in some circles as almost
sacred--would have been repudiated by him with the quiet scorn of a man
who prefers facts to fancies, and inductive reasoning to sentimental
rhapsody. A partisan he could not be, for he saw too clearly that in
political matters truth and right were seldom a monopoly of any side,
and though by no means wanting in a certain quiet and restrained
enthusiasm, he had almost an abhorrence of fanaticism. One example may
serve for many, to indicate the way in which he regarded both this
spirit and any difficult question. Naturally he had a strong dislike to
slavery; he fully recognised the injustice and wrong to the negro, and
the evil effects upon the master. Nevertheless, after visiting the
Southern States, and giving the impressions of his journey, he thus
expresses himself: "The more I reflected on the condition of the slaves,
and endeavoured to think on a practical plan for hastening the period of
their liberation, the more difficult the subject appeared to me, and the
more I felt astonished at the confidence displayed by so many
anti-slavery speakers and writers on both sides of the Atlantic. The
course pursued by these agitators shows that, next to the positively
wicked, the class who are usually called 'well-meaning persons' are the
most mischievous in society." He then points out how a strong feeling
against slavery had been springing up in Virginia, Kentucky, and
Maryland; how the emancipation party had been gaining ground, and
slavery steadily retreating southwards, but "from the moment that the
abolition movement began, and that missionaries were sent to the
Southern States, a reaction was perceived--the planters took the
alarm--laws were passed against education--the condition of the slave
was worse, and not a few of the planters, by dint of defending their
institutions against the arguments and misrepresentations of their
assailants, came actually to delude themselves into a belief that
slavery was legitimate, wise, and expedient--a positive good in
itself."[170] At a subsequent period he speaks of Mrs. Beecher Stowe's
famous book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," as "a gross caricature." But in the
great struggle between the Northern and Southern States, his sympathies
went with the former. It was the fairness of his criticisms, and his
hearty appreciation of the good side in American institutions, that won
him many friends and made his books welcome on that side of the

Lyell's views on religious questions accorded, as might be expected,
with the general bent of his mind. He was a member of the Church of
England,[171] appreciated its services, the charm of music, and the
beauty of architecture, but he failed to understand why nonconformity
should entail penalties, whether legal or social. His mind was
essentially undogmatic; feeling that certainty was impossible in
questions where the ordinary means of verification could not be
employed, he abstained from speculation and shrank from formulating his
ideas, even when he was convinced of their general truth.

He was content, however, to believe where he could not prove, and to
trust, not faintly, the larger hope. So he worked on in calm confidence
that the honest searcher after truth would never go far astray, and that
the God of Nature and of Revelation was one. He sought in this life to
follow the way of righteousness, justice, and goodness, and he died in
the hope of immortality.

As he disapproved of any approach to persecution on the ground of
religion, so he objected strongly to the exclusive privileges which in
his day were enjoyed by the Church of England, especially to its virtual
monopoly of education. On this point he several times expresses himself
in forcible terms; as, for instance, in these words: "The Church of
England ascendency is really the power which is oppressive here, and not
the monarchy, nor the aristocracy. Perhaps I feel it too sensitively as
a scientific man, since our Puseyites have excluded physical science
from Oxford. They are wise in their generation. The abject deference to
authority advocated conscientiously by them can never survive a sound
philosophical education."[172] To this party--or to the "Catholic
movement," as it is now often called--in the Church of England, Lyell
had a strong dislike; he deemed their claims to authority unwarrantable,
their practices in many respects either childish or superstitious.

As we have endeavoured to bring out in the course of this volume the
guiding principles of Lyell's work, a brief recapitulation only is
needed as a conclusion. That work was regulated by two maxims: the one,
"Go and see"; the other, "Prefer reason to authority." To the first
maxim he gave expression more than once, while he was always inculcating
it by example. Imitating the well-known saying of Demosthenes in regard
to oratory, he emphatically declares that in order to form
comprehensive views of the globe, the first, the second, and the third
requisite is "travel."[173] What he preached, he practised; about a
quarter of the last fifty years of his life must have so been spent. Of
the second maxim also he was a living example. It was his practice not
only to see for himself, but also to judge for himself, in all questions
other than those necessarily reserved for specialists; his rule, that
thought should be free from the fear of man, but subject to the laws of
reasoning. As a young man he had advocated, almost single-handed,
scientific views which were unpopular alike with the older authorities
in geology and with the supposed friends of religion; he had protested
against the invocation of catastrophic destruction and cataclysmal flood
in order to clear away difficulties in the past history of the earth; in
other words, against an appeal to miracle, when a cause could be found
in the existing order of Nature; and he had disputed the right of any
priesthood, whether Romanist or Protestant, to hold the keys of
knowledge. He vindicated, against all corners, his claim--nay, his
birthright--to sit, as an earnest student, at the feet of Nature to
listen and to learn, as she chose to teach, whether by the acted drama
of the living world or by the silent record of the rocks. He was, in
short, more observer than theorist, more philosopher than poet, more a
servant of reason than a dreamer of dreams.

His example is one well worthy of remembrance at the present epoch. The
"whirligig of time" has brought its revenges, and has introduced into
geology a class of students almost unknown in the days when Lyell was
in his vigour. The developments of mineralogy and palæontology, helpful
and valuable as they have been by making geology more of an exact
science and, in some cases, substituting order for confusion, have
tended to produce students very familiar with the apparatus of a
laboratory or the collections of a museum, but not with the face of the
earth. This, in itself, would not be necessarily hurtful, because the
field of geology is so wide that there is room for all; but it leads
sometimes to an undue exaltation of trifles, to an over-estimation of
the "mint, anise, and cummin" of science, to a waste of time upon what
is called the literature of the subject. This last often means either
searching much chaff for a few grains of wheat, or spending much labour
with the hope of discovering whether A or B was the first to confer a
name upon a species; the priority perhaps being only of a few months,
and that name neither particularly appropriate nor euphonious. Partly
from this, partly from other causes, the importance, nay, the absolute
necessity of travel, for the education of a geologist is now too often
forgotten. In this science there are many questions--some of them almost
fundamental--for which no perquisitions in a library, no research in a
laboratory, no studies in a museum, however conscientiously patient and
painstaking they may be, can be accepted as an adequate preparation;
questions in which Nature is at once the best book, the best laboratory,
and the best museum, and experience is the only safe teacher. What would
Lyell have said to men--and such might now be named--who undertook to
discuss wide geological problems with the most limited experience who,
for example, posed as authorities upon what ice can or cannot do,
without having even seen a glacier or speculated on the most intricate
questions in petrology without having studied more than some corner of
this island, or, indeed, without any precise knowledge of that? Would
not he--averse as he was to speaking severely--have censured them for
talking about things which they could not possibly understand, and for
darkening counsel by words without knowledge?

Lyell, no doubt, had exceptionally favourable opportunities. The eldest
son of a wealthy man--who contentedly acquiesced in his seeking fame
rather than fortune, and supplied him with the necessary funds--his time
was his own, as he had not only enough for his ordinary wants, but also
could afford to travel as much as he desired. His social position was
sufficiently good to facilitate his access to those who had already
attained to eminence. He was blessed with a sympathetic and helpful
wife, and they had no children. Thus they were perfectly free, both in
the disposal of their time at home and in their peregrinations abroad.
Besides these things they both enjoyed good health. Lyell's constitution
was not, indeed, so robust that he could take liberties; he had to be
careful about "cakes and ale," and to lead a fairly regular life,[174]
but by so doing he was able to be always in good condition for his work.
His eyes, in fact, were his only trouble and who is there who has not
got his own "thorn in the flesh"? Lyell also was happy in all his
domestic relations. His letters indicate that all the family--on both
sides--were on affectionate terms, and contain few references to
anxieties and troubles, such as the sickness and death of those dear to
him, until his life approached the period when such trials become

Thus free from the impediments which have beset many other men of marked
ability, such as weak health and physical suffering, the wearing anxiety
of an invalid wife or a sickly family, the harassing cares of pecuniary
losses or of an insufficient income, Lyell had an exceptional chance.
But other men have the same and do not use it; they are crippled by this
burden or diverted by that allurement, and "might have been" too often
becomes their epitaph. Lyell never faltered in the course which,
comparatively early in life, he had marked out for himself. With that
steady persistency and quiet energy which are characteristic of the
Lowland Scot, he put aside all temptations and everything which
threatened to interfere with his work. While neither recluse nor hermit,
neither churlish nor unsociable, nay, while thoroughly enjoying witty
and intellectual society, he allowed nothing to distract him from his
main purpose. Convinced that there was a work which he could do, and a
name which he could win, he was willing, for sake of this, to run risks
and to make sacrifices. He did not indeed despise fame, but he never
condescended to unworthy arts to obtain it; he held that the labourer
was worthy of his hire, but with him it was always "the work first, and
the wage second," whether that were coined gold or laurel wreath. He
was singularly free from all petty jealousies, and ready to learn from
all who could teach him anything, but he was no weakling, swayed by
every breath of wind, for he reached his conclusions slowly and
cautiously, and never stopped to ask whether they would be popular.
"Forward, for truth's sake," that was the motto of his life.

In yet another way was Lyell _felix opportunitate vitæ_. In his days,
geology might be compared to a country which had been for some time
discovered but was not yet explored. Settlements had been established
here and there; in their neighbourhood some ground had been cleared, and
a firm base of operations had been secured, but around and beyond was
the virgin forest, the untrodden land. At almost every step the
traveller met with some fresh accession to his knowledge or a new
problem to solve. He could feel the allurement of expectation or the joy
of discovery even in countries otherwise well known; where now he can
hope only to pick up some tiny detail or to plunge into some
interminable controversy. If he now desires "fresh fields and pastures
new," he must wander beyond the limits of civilised lands; for within
these every crag is hammer-marked, and the official geologist is at work
making maps. But not only this, Lyell lived in the days when the
literature of his science was of very modest dimensions. This had its
obvious drawbacks, but it had also its advantages, which, perhaps, were
more than compensations. At the present day the conscientious student is
in danger of being overwhelmed by the mass of papers, pamphlets and
books, from all lands and in all languages--which he is expected, if not
to read, at least to scramble through before venturing to write on any
subject. Fifty years ago it required a very limited amount of
study--often only a few hours' research--to put the geologist in
possession of all that was known, so that he approached his theme very
much as a mathematician attacks a problem. This burden of scientific
literature, seeing that life is short and human strength is limited,
threatens to stifle the progress of science itself, and we can hardly
venture to expect that any more great generalisations will be made in
geology or palæontology, unless a man arise who is daring enough to
subordinate reading to thinking, and so strong in his grasp of
principles that he can make light of details.

It has been sometimes said that Lyell was not an original thinker.
Possibly not; _vixere fortes ante Agamemnona_ is true in science no less
than in national history; there were mathematicians before Newton,
philosophic naturalists before Darwin, geologists before Lyell. He did
not claim to have discovered the principle of uniformity. He tells us
himself what had been done by his predecessors in Italy and in Scotland:
but he scattered the mists of error and illusion, he placed the idea
upon a firm and logical basis; in a word, he found uniformitarianism an
hypothesis, and he left it a theory. That surely is a more solid gift to
science, a better claim to greatness, than any number of brilliant
guesses and fancies, which, after coruscating for a brief season to the
amazement of a gaping crowd, explode into darkness, and are no more
seen. But to a certain extent Lyell has thrown his own work into the
shade. The fame of his books causes his numerous scientific papers[175]
to be overlooked; particularly his contributions to the history of
coalfields and to the classification of the Tertiary deposits. Moreover,
into these books he was constantly incorporating new and original
matter. We may be fairly familiar with the "Principles" and the
"Elements," but we fail to realise until we have read his "Life" and the
accounts of his two tours in America how much those books are made up
from the results of actual experience and personal study in the field.

It has been also said that Lyell carried the principle of "uniformity" a
little too far. But, suppose we concede this, does it amount to more
than the admission that he was human? It is almost inevitable that the
discoverer or prophet of a great truth, who has to encounter the storm
and stress of controversy, should state his case a little too strongly,
or should overlook some minor limitation. Suppose we grant that Lyell
was a little too lavish in his estimate of the time at the disposal of
geologists. The physicist had not then intervened, with arguments drawn
from his own science, to insist that neither earth nor sun can reckon
their years by myriads of myriads, and even now this controversy cannot
be regarded as closed. Suppose we grant that in accepting Hutton's
dictum, "I find in the earth no signs of a beginning," Lyell was misled
by appearances,[176] which have since proved to be delusive, and that
facts, so far as they go, point rather in the contrary direction. Well,
this point also is not yet to be regarded as settled; and of one thing,
at any rate, we may be sure, that if Lyell were now living he would
frankly recognise new facts, as soon as they were established, and would
not shrink from any modification of his theory which these might demand.
Great as were his services to geology, this, perhaps, is even
greater--for the lesson applies to all sciences and to all seekers after
knowledge--that his career, from first to last, was the manifestation of
a judicial mind, of a noble spirit, raised far above all party passions
and petty considerations, of an intellect great in itself, but greater
still in its grand humility; that he was a man to whom truth was as the
'pearl of price,' worthy of the devotion and, if need be, the sacrifice
of a life.


[157] In this paragraph I have ventured to quote largely, and more or
less verbatim, from the words of Miss Buckley (Lyell's secretary) in the
article on his life, written by my friend Professor G. A. J. Cole, in
the "Dictionary of National Biography," vol. xxxiv.

[158] "Life of Sir A. Ramsay," by Sir A. Geikie, chap. v.

[159] _Vidi tantum_, when his powers were beginning to fail, but it is
this expression which is stamped on my mind as characteristic of the
face in Charles Lyell, and, I may add, also in Charles Darwin.

[160] J. W. Dawson, cited in the " Dictionary of National Biography."

[161] _Ut suprà._

[162] I may add my own testimony. When the second edition of the
"Student's Elements" was passing through the press. I ventured to write
to him about one or two petrological details, which I thought might be
more precise. Though at that time I had published but few papers, I
received more than one kind letter with the request that I would read
some of the proof-sheets of the book and suggest alterations.

[163] "The Origin of Species," published in 1859.

[164] "Life and Letters of C. Darwin," ii. p. 326.

[165] Quoted in Life, Letters, and Journals, ii. p. 461.

[166] In 1865. "Life and Letters of Sedgwick," ii. p. 412.

[167] "Life, Letters, and Journal of Sir C. Bunbury," iii. p. 66.

[168] "Life and Letters of C. Darwin," i. p. 76.

[169] He maintained for many years an interesting correspondence with
Mr. G. Ticknor, of Boston, U.S.A., in which he often discusses political
questions, both British and American.

[170] "Travels in North America," chap. ix.

[171] In the later part of his life he appears to have sympathised more
with the "Unitarians," for he attended the services at Dr. Martineau's
chapel in Little Portland Street, though I am not aware that he formally
seceded from the Church of England.

[172] Life, Letters, and Journals, vol. ii. pp. 82-127. It must however,
be remembered that the High Church party were not alone in their
opposition; indeed, after a time, they were more tolerant of geologists
than the extreme "Evangelical" school. I have some cuttings from the
_Record_ newspaper, dated about 1876, which are interesting examples of
narrow-minded ignorance and theological arrogance.

[173] Life, Letters, and Journal, i. p. 233. "Principles," i. 69
(eleventh edition).

[174] He admits that when Lord Enniskillen and Murchison had seduced
him, after a Geological Society meeting, to partake of pterodactyl
(woodcock) pie and drink punch into the small hours, his work suffered
for four or five days afterwards.

[175] These were about seventy-six in number, the great majority written
prior to the last twenty years of his life.

[176] Such as the seeming intercalation of crystalline schists with
fossiliferous rocks, or the immediate sequence of the two.


 Address to the British Association at Bath, 190

 Alps, The, Glaciers of, 177

 America, First visit to, 130

 ----, Second visit to, 155

 ----, Third visit to, 172

 ----, Fourth visit to, 173

 "Antiquity of Man" published, 185

 ----, Synopsis of, 186

 Aurignac Cave, The, Visit to, 200

 Auvergne, Journey to, 33

 Avicenna's treatise on minerals, 81

 Bachelor of Arts, Degree of, conferred on him, 26

 Bar, Called to the, 30

 Baronet, Created a, 190

 Beaumont, Elie de, his theory of mountain-chains, 96

 Birth and birthplace, His, 9

 Brittany, Tour in, 50

 British Association, Address to, 190

 Cave remains, Dr. Schmerling's collection, 101

 Continental researches in geology, 21

 Cromer, Investigations at, 196

 Cuvier, Meets with, in Paris, 28

 Darwin and Lyell, 120

 ----, his opinion of Lyell's character, 208

 Death of Lady Lyell, 200

 ---- Sir Charles Lyell, 204

 Denmark and Southern Norway, Researches in, 122

 Deputy-Lieutenant of Forfar, Appointment as, 58

 Deshayes, the eminent conchologist, 42

 Diluvialists and Fluvialists, The, 43

 Doctor of Laws degree conferred on him, 202

 Eifel, Visit to the volcanic district of, 62

 "Elements of Geology" published, 125

 Engis skull, The, 102

 Entomology, Early studies in, 15

 Etna explored, 181

 Family, The Lyell, 10

 Father, His, 9

 Fluvialists and Diluvialists, The, 43

 "Forest Bed," The, 196

 Frascatoro, his views on geology, 83

 Generelli's theories, 87

 Geological Society, Elected a Fellow of the, 27

 ----, His first papers to the, 28

 ----, Elected secretary of the, 28

 ----, Elected President of the, 111

 Geology, First studies in, 19

 ----, Continental researches, 21

 Glaciers of the Alps, His theory of the, 177

 Grand Canary, Voyage to, 174

 Great Dismal Swamp, The, explored, 141

 Horner, Miss, Marriage with, 69

 Humboldt, Meeting with, in Paris, 28

 Huttonian Theory, The, 91

 Infancy, 10

 Inscription on Lyell's tombstone, 205

 Ireland, Visit to, 152

 Kessingland Cliffs and the "Forest Bed," 196

 King's College, Lectures at, 68

 Knighted, 170

 Law, The, Studies for, 27

 Lectures at King's College, 68

 ---- at the Royal Institution, 71

 Leonardo da Vinci, his conclusions on geology, 83

 Letter to Herschel on the Origin of Species, 118

 Lyell family, The, 10

 ----, Lady, Death of, 200

 ----, Sir Charles, Death of, 204

 "Lyellia," The moss named, 9

 Madeira, Voyage to, 173

 Marriage to Miss Horner, His, 69

 Medal of the Royal Society presented to him, 111

 Member of the Institute of France, Elected, 190

 Midhurst, School Days at, 16

 Moel Tryfaen, Crags of, 61

 Montreal and Quebec, Journey to, 146

 Moro's views, 87

 Moss called "Lyellia," 9

 Mother, His, 10

 Naples, Visit to, 38

 Narrow escape when a child, 11

 New Orleans, Journey to, 161

 Niagara Falls, His impressions of, 134

 Normandy and Brittany, Researches in, 50

 North America, Travels in, 130

 "Omar the Learned," his "Retreat of the Sea," 82

 Order of Scientific Merit bestowed by the King of Prussia, 190

 Origin of Species, Letter to Herschel on the, 118

 Oxford, Undergraduate days at, 19

 Palma, Investigations at, 174

 Personal characteristics of Lyell, 206

 "Plastic Force" dogma, The, 84

 Political views, His, 210

 President of the Geological Society, Is elected, 111

 "Principles of Geology," first volume published, 57

 ----, second volume published, 68

 ----, third volume published, 72

 ----, its history and various editions, 73

 Professor of Geology at King's College, 58

 Pyrenees, Visit to the, 52

 Quebec and Montreal visited, 146

 Religious Questions, His views on, 212

 Ringwood, School days at, 12

 Royal Institution, Lectures at, 71

 Royal Society, Is elected a Fellow of the, 30 (note)

 ----, Medal of, presented to him, 111

 Salisbury, School days at, 12

 Sarum, Excursions to, 13

 Scandinavia, Investigations in, 104

 School days, 12

 Schmerling's collection of cave-remains, 101

 Scientific papers, large number written by him, 220

 Scrope's work on "Volcanoes," 97

 "Sea-serpent," Lyell's views concerning it, 157

 "Second Visit to North America" published, 167

 Stanley, Dean, his remarks respecting Lyell's life-work, 208

 Switzerland, First tour in, 21

 Teneriffe, Researches at, 174

 Tombstone, Lyell's, Inscription on, 205

 "Travels in North America" published, 130

 Undergraduate days, 19

 Vallisneri's conclusions, 86

 Views on religious questions, Lyell's, 212

 Vinci, Leonardo da, his conclusions on geology, 83

 Wales, Visit to, 189

 Werner's theories, 88

 Will, Lyell's, 205

 Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society presented to him, 194.


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    | Page  40  excellenza changed to eccellenza  |
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