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Letter 7459a

Darwin, C. R. to Mivart, St G. J.

26 Jan [1871]


CD apologises for having thought that StGJM’s religious feelings had led him to feel personal animosity towards him. [See 7454.]

He remembers having thought and written that belief in evolution is infinitely more important for science than belief in Natural Selection. For his own part he would have felt little interest in evolution apart from the explanation “in a general manner” of how each organism is so adapted to its conditions.


Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Jan 26

My dear Sir

I have had two bad days in my bed-room & am a good deal shaken &must be brief.— I shd. be an unfeeling wretch, if I was not quitesoftened by your extremely kind letter.—f2 I own that I thought Isaw that your religious feelings had led (for I know of no othercause) you to feel personal animosity towards me, but that yourkindness had induced you to conquer & mask these feelings, but thatthey had biassed your arguments. I now quite think that this was anutter delusion & I apologise to you for such thoughts. I expressmyself very badly but my head feels very weak.— I do most stronglythink, & remember writing so just after appearance of Origin, that thebelief in Evolution is infinitely more important for science thanbelief in Nat. Selection;f3 but I do not wish to obtrude thisopinion in any public work, or at least not without it comes innaturally & is duly guarded.— I think so, because an [immense]field of enquiry is thus opened up on the manner in which eachorganism has acquired its present structure—causes ofvariation—mutual sterility—geographical distribution &c &c &c

(By the way do not your adduced facts of anomalous distribution tellquite as much against evolution as against nat. Selection?)f4 For myown private part, I shd have felt little interest in evolution if Ihad not been able to explain in a general manner to my ownsatisfaction how each organism had become so wonderfully adapted toits conditions. You admit that Nat-selection has done something, but I almostthink you wd be puzzled to say what, judging from your argument fromjaw of Thylecimus.f5 I almost think you wd have been more secureto have followed Owenf6 & given Nat. Selection altogether up.—

Pray tell me when I used that horrid arrogant expression—“it isa false belief”—f7 When in London, strength & time permitting, Iwill surely call on you.— Accept my cordial and sincere thanksfor your great kindness & for not taking offence with me.— I canwrite no more.— I do not know whether all this will beintelligible.

Ch. Darwin

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The year is established by the relationship between this letter andthe letter from St G. J. Mivart, 24 January 1871.
On CD’s illness, see the letter to J. B. Innes, 26 January [1871]and n. 2. CD refers to the letter from Mivart of 24 January1871.
The reference has not been identified. See also draft letter to StG. J. Mivart, [23 January 1871].
On the geographical distribution of animals, see Mivart 1871a,chapter 7.
In Mivart 1871a, p. 68, Mivart commented on the fact that the anterior molars of the dog (a placental mammal) resembled those of the thylacine (Tasmanian wolf; a marsupial mammal). See alsoCorrespondence vol. 18, letter to W. H. Flower, 25 March [1870] andn. 4.
Richard Owen.
See letter to Francis Darwin, [after 21 January 1871], n. 2.
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