Darwin Correspondence

The Rev. Charles Kingsley (he wrote The Water Babies) received a copy of Origin from CD and wrote the following letter:

C. KINGSLEY TO C. DARWIN.

Eversley Rectory, Winchfield,
November 18th, 1859.

Dear Sir,

I have to thank you for the unexpected honour of your book. That the Naturalist whom, of all naturalists living, I most wish to know and to learn from, should have sent a scientist like me his book, encourages me at least to observe more carefully, and perhaps more slowly.

I am so poorly (in brain), that I fear I cannot read your book just now as I ought. All I have seen of it awes me; both with the heap of facts and the prestige of your name, and also with the clear intuition, that if you be right, I must give up much that I have believed and written.

In that I care little. Let God be true, and every man a liar! Let us know what is, and, as old Socrates has it, epesthai to logo-follow up the villainous shifty fox of an argument, into whatsoever unexpected bogs and brakes he may lead us, if we do but run into him at last.

From two common superstitions, at least, I shall be free while judging of your books:—

(1.) I have long since, from watching the crossing of domesticated animals and plants, learnt to disbelieve the dogma of the permanence of species.

(2.) I have gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of Deity, to believe that he created primal forms capable of self development into all forms needful pro tempore and pro loco, as to believe that He required a fresh act of intervention to supply the lacunas which He Himself had made. I question whether the former be not the loftier thought.

Be it as it may, I shall prize your book, both for itself, and as a proof that you are aware of the existence of such a person as

Your faithful servant,
C. KINGSLEY.

I doubt many clerics nowadays would be willing to go so far in their acceptance of radical new ideas. It says much about the Victorian delight in the exchange of ideas.

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One response to “Darwin Correspondence

  1. As a follow-up to my last blathering comment re: the foundations of your field as a patchwork of the lives of the people researching it, I would like to petition that you post correspondence on a regular basis. I’m not sure that these discoveries could have been made at any other point because of, as you very rightly point out, the almost ravenous need for new ideas and information.

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