James Hutton 1794. ("Investigation of the Principles of Knowledge and of the Progress of Reason, from Sense to Science and Philosophy. Vol. 2, chap. 3, section 13, p. 501") reproduced in the Supplementary information to Paul N. Pearson's "In Retrospect." (2003. Nature 425, p. 665):
"Now, this [adaptation through seminal variation and selection] will be evident, when we consider, that if an organised body is not in the situation and circumstances best adapted to its sustenance and propagation, then, in conceiving an indefinite variety among the individuals of that species, we must be assured, that, on the one hand, those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be the most liable to perish, while, on the other hand, those organised bodies, which most approach to the best constitution for the present circumstances, will be best adapted to continue, in preserving themselves and multiplying the individuals of their race."Hutton continues with the human breeding and selection of different dog races as an example and generalizes the principle to natural selection under natural conditions, but he stops short of applying it to the origin of new species. Instead he only considers the adaptation of races within species. As Pearso (2003) explains, Hutton's Investigation is an intimidating philosophical magnum opus in three volumes running up to more than 2000 pages that was already deemed obscure by his contemporaries. It therefore no wonder that the chapter on natural selection in the second volume has been ignored for so long. It's an example of the theory of evolution through natural selection being proposed in an odd context.
William Charles Wells 1818. ("Two Essays: one upon single vision with two eyes; the other on dew..." p. 435-437. Archibald Constable and Co., Edinburgh):
"Again, those who attend to the improvement of domestic animals, when they find individuals possessing, in a greater degree than common, the qualities they desire, couple a male and female of these together, then take the best of their offspring as a new stock, and in this way proceed, till they approach as near the point in view, as the nature of things will permit. But, what is here done by art, seems to be done, with equal efficacy, though more slowly, by nature, in the formation of varieties of mankind fitted for the country which they inhabit." (p. 435)
"Similar facts occur in respect to other species of animals." (p. 437)The context is a collection of articles -- not just two as the title of the book suggests. The quote is from: "An account of a female of the white race of mankind part of whose skin resembles that of a Negro; with some observations on the causes of the differences in colour and form between the white and Negro races of man." Starting out rather medically, about a woman with a mosaic skin pigmentation, it descends into speculations about human races and their adaptation to their environment - much of it racist and no longer politically correct I guess. Again, this is an example of odd context for a theory of evolution through natural selection. The whole collection in the book can also be considered odd, as it contains mixture of essays medical, physical, autobiographical etc.
Patrick Matthew 1831. ("On Naval Timber and Arboriculture." Appendix, Note B, p. 365. Edinburgh: Adam Black, Edinburgh):
"As nature in all her modifications of life, has a power to increase far beyond what is needed to supply the place of what falls by Time's decay, those individuals who possess not the requisite strength, swiftness, hardihood, or cunning, fall prematurely without reproducing--either a prey to their natural devourers, or sinking uner disease, generally induced by want of nourishment, their place being occupied by the more perfect of their own kind, who pressing on the means of subsistenece."The Appendix really is a collection of endnotes that were too long for inclusion as footnotes at the bottom of the pages in the main text. Thus Note B relates to a footnote at page 3 saying "See App. B." Page 3, however, belongs to the introduction of the book, where Matthew extols the relevance of navigation for trade, culture etc. This is probably why the rest of Note B in the Appendix is a rant against feudal laws such as the law of entail of aristocracy as being against this natural law of selection. This may be the oddest place and context. The main text seems to be partly a handbook for shipbuilders, partly for foresters, but the introduction and appendices show that Matthew is also after bigger game.
Herbert Spencer 1852. ("A theory of population, deduced from the general law of animal fertility." Westminster Review 57: 468-501):
"And here it must be remarked, that the effect of pressure of population, in increasing the ability to maintain life, and decreasing the ability to multiply, is not a uniform effect, but an average one. In this case, as in many others, Nature secures each step in advance by a succession of trials, which are perpetually repeated, and cannot fail to be repeated, until success is achieved. All mankind in turn subject themselves more or less to the discipline described; they either may or may not advance under it; but, in the nature of things, only those who do advance under it eventually survive. For, necessarily, families and races [page break: 499/500] whom this increasing difficulty of getting a living which excess of fertility entails, does not stimulate to improvements in production—that is, to greater mental activity—are on the high road to extinction; and must ultimately be supplanted by those whom the pressure does so stimulate. This truth we have recently seen exemplified in Ireland. And here, indeed, without further illustration, it will be seen that premature death, under all its forms, and from all its causes, cannot fail to work in the same direction. For as those prematurely carried off must, in the average of cases, be those in whom the power of self-preservation is the least, it unavoidably follows, that those left behind to continue the race are those in whom the power of self-preservation is the greatest—are the select of their generation. So that, whether the dangers to existence be of the kind produced by excess of fertility, or of any other kind, it is clear, that by the ceaseless exercise of the faculties needed to contend with them, and by the death of all men who fail to contend with them successfully, there is ensured a constant progress towards a higher degree of skill, intelligence, and self-regulation—a better co-ordination of actions—a more complete life." [pp. 499/500.]The Westminster Review was established in 1823 as the official organ of the Philosophical Radicals, a group of English political radicals with philosophical inspirations. In this respect, it can be regarded as an odd place of publication quite unlike the journals and outlets of scientific societies. This group of philosophers believed in a loosely defined evolutionism or 'Law of Progress,' but was divided over the merit of Malthus's principle. Some rejected it as a justification for workhouse morals. Herbert Spencer published his article in order to show that the adaptedness or fitness of organisms for their environment does not result from some benevolent government of nature, but from the painful Malthusian principle combined with some self-correcting mechanism, as it were, natural selection. I would not regard this context as very odd, because it seems to have been the larger (political/ideological) context for evolutionary theory ever since.
There'd also be Edward Blyth and Erasmus Darwin, for example, and there might even be yet unknown anticipations in other languages.