Darwin’s book was half way when, on 18 June 1858, he received a paper from Wallace describing natural selection. Shocked that he had been “forestalled”, Darwin sent it on to Lyell, as requested, and, though Wallace had not asked for publication, he suggested he would send it to any journal that Wallace chose. His family was in crisis with children in the village dying of scarlet fever, and he put matters in the hands of Lyell and Hooker. They decided on a joint presentation at the Linnean Society on 1 July of On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection; however, Darwin’s baby son died of the scarlet fever and he was too distraught to attend.
There was little immediate attention to this announcement of the theory; the president of the Linnean remarked in May 1859 that the year had not been marked by any revolutionary discoveries. Only one review rankled enough for Darwin to recall it later; Professor Samuel Haughton of Dublin claimed that “all that was new in them was false, and what was true was old.” Darwin struggled for thirteen months to produce an abstract of his “big book”, suffering from ill health but getting constant encouragement from his scientific friends. Lyell arranged to have it published by John Murray.