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Letter 2534

Kingsley, Charles to Darwin, C. R.

18 Nov 1859

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    Will judge CD's book [Origin] free from two superstitions: the dogma of the permanent species and the need of an act of intervention to bring change.

Transcription

Eversley Rectory, | Winchfield.

Dear Sir

I have to thank you for the unexpected honour of your book. That the Nat-uralist whom, of all naturalists living, I most wish to know & to learn from, should have sent a sciolist like me his book, encourages me at least to observe more carefully, & think 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, & the prestige of your name, & also with the clear intuition, that if you be right, I must give up much that I have believed & written.

In that I care little. ‘Let God be true, & every man a liar’. Let us know what is, & as old Socrates has it [GREEK CHARACTERS]—follow up the villainous shifty fox of an argument, into what soever unexpected bogs & 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 book. 1) I have long since, from watching the crossing of domesticated animals & 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 & pro loco, as to believe that He required a fresh act of inter-vention to supply the lacunas wh 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, & as a proof that you are aware of the existence of such a person as | Your faithful servant | C Kingsley Eversley | Novr 18/59

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 2534.f1
    Kingsley, the vicar of Eversley, Hampshire, was famous for his historical novels and sermons in which he preached what came to be known as Christian Socialism. He was appointed a chaplain-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria in 1859. CD had read Yeast (Kingsley 1851) in July 1859 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 25). Kingsley had also published a short volume on natural history (Kingsley 1855).
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    f2 2534.f2
    Kingsley quotes Rom. 3:4 and alludes to a passage from Plato, The Republic, II. 365c.
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    f3 2534.f3
    The botanist Charles James Fox Bunbury visited Kingsley from 6 to 8 December 1859 and recorded Kingsley's opinion of Origin in his diary: ‘He talked much of Darwin's new book on species, expressing great admiration for it, but saying that it was so startling that he had not yet been able to make up his mind as to its soundness.’ Kingsley also mentioned to Bunbury that he had been impressed by CD's use of domesticated animals as an example of the power of selection. See Bunbury ed. 1891–3, Middle life 3: 201.
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    f4 2534.f4
    This sentence of the letter was included in the second edition of Origin, p. 481 (Peckham ed. 1959,p. 748): A celebrated author and divine has written to me that “he has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe that He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws.” See also letter to Charles Kingsley, 30 November [1859].
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