The appearance of the Origin

Yesterday I ran across a piece by Tim Radford from earlier this year in the Guardian, titled, "The book that changed the world." It's a short article about the reception of Darwin's Origin of Species, an "instant bestseller":

Origin was the book of the year - perhaps the book of the century - but it faced some stiff competition in 1859. Alfred Lord Tennyson printed the first Idylls of the King, his long cycle of Arthurian poems. John Stuart Mill wrote his mighty work On Liberty. Samuel Smiles delivered Self Help, a classic in a genre that has kept publishing houses alive ever since. George Eliot published Adam Bede and Charles Dickens produced A Tale of Two Cities.
It was the best of times and the worst of times for Charles Darwin.

The tidbits of historical context make it interesting to read, although there may not be much new for people who are familiar with Darwin's contemporaries and their reviews of the Origin.

One cruel review was published anonymously - by convention reviews were then unsigned - but the Darwin camp quickly identified the hand of Richard Owen, the titan of palaeontology. "Some of my relations say it cannot possibly be Owen's article, because the reviewer speaks so very highly of prof Owen. Poor, dear simple folk!" Darwin mused wryly afterwards, but he was hurt by attacks from scholars he had once respected.