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Letter 5730

Kingsley, Charles to Darwin, C. R.

11 Dec 1867

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    CK is drawn into discussions of Darwinism everywhere in Cambridge. The climate has changed in the past three years: the younger M.A.s are greedy to know more and the criticism of the older Fellows has a new tone.


Trinity Lodge, | Cambridge. Decr 11/67 My dear Mr. Darwin

I have been here 3 or 4 days; & have been accidentally drawn, again & again, into what the world calls Darwinism, & you & I & some others fact & science— I have been drawn thereinto, simply because I find everyone talking about it to anyone who is supposed to know (or mis-know) anything about it: all shewing how men's minds are stired.

I find the best & strongest men coming over. I find one or 2 of them like Adams (& Cayley) fighting desperately.

1. Because, being really great men, they know so much already wh. they cannot coordinate with your theories (at least as yet) & say (as they have a right) ``I will stand by what I do know from mathematics, before I give in to what I dont know from ——

That last dash is the key of the position. They dont know. The dear good fellows have been asking me questions.—e.g. ``You dont say that there are links between a cat & a dog? If so, what are they?— To wh. I have been forced to answer—my dear fellow, you must read & find out for yourself— I am not bound to answer such a question as that. I am not bound to teach you the alphabet, while you are solemnly disputing about my translation of the language.

That is what it comes to, my dear & honoured master, for so I call you openly where I can, among ``great swells', as well as here in Cambridge— Why men dont agree with you, is because they dont know facts: & what I do is—simply to say to every one, as I have been doing for 3 days past ``Will you kindly ascertain a few facts—or at least ascertain what facts there are, to be known or disproved, before you talk on this matter at all?''—& I find, in Cambridge, that the younger M.A's. are not only willing, but greedy, to hear what you have to say; & that the elder, (who have of course more old notions to overcome) are facing the whole question in a quite different tone from what they did 3 years ago. I wont mention names for fear of ``compromising'' men who are in an honest, but ``funky'' stage of conversion: but I have been surprised, coming back for 3 or 4 days, at the change since last winter.

I trust you will find the good old university (wh. has always held to physical science & free thought—& allows—as she always has done—anybody to believe anything reasonable, provided he dont quarrel with his neighbours) to be your finest standing ground in these isles.

I say this—especially now—because you will get, I suppose, an attack on you by an anonymous ``Graduate of Cambridge''—wh. I found in the hands of at least one very wise & liberal man—who admired it very much—but knew nothing of The Facts: he shewed it me, & in the first 3 pages I opened at hazard, I pointed him out 2 or 3 capital cases of ignorance or omission, on wh. I declined to read any more of the book, as coming from a man who knew—or did not choose to know—anything about The Facts. He was astonished, when I told him that the man was an ignoramus, or worse, & could be proved such. & I think I have done him good. & so it will be with many more—

Excuse the bad writing— I have a pen wh. if natural selection influenced pens, wd have been cast into the fire long ago: but the disturbing moral element makes me too lazy to cast it thereinto—& to find a new one.

I have—as usual—a thousand questions to ask you—& no time, nor brain, to ask them now.

But ever I am— | Your affte pupil | C Kingsley

Dont trouble yourself to answer me. But if you write to me, I return to Eversley tomorrow.& give my love to Lubbock.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 05730.f1
    Kingsley went to Cambridge twice a year to deliver his professorial lectures (Kingsley ed. 1877, 2: 153).
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    f2 05730.f2
    The Cambridge mathematicians John Couch Adams and Arthur Cayley were friends (DNB, s.v. Cayley, Arthur).
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    f3 05730.f3
    Kingsley refers to Robert Mackenzie Beverley's The Darwinian theory of the transmutation of species examined by a graduate of the University of Cambridge ([Beverley] 1867).
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    f4 05730.f4
    Eversley, Hampshire.
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    f5 05730.f5
    John Lubbock.
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