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Letter 7173

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

25 Apr 1870

Summary

Apologises for saying more than was necessary in his previous letter. Although he feels gratitude and esteem for CD, he execrates those who use natural selection to oppose man’s higher interests and impede his advance. Has seen Huxley’s Man’s place in nature for sale among a crowd of obscenities at most Italian railway stations.

Transcription

7 North Bank | N.W.

April 25th 1870

My dear Sir,

It is exceedingly kind of you to write again & I feel I owe yousome apology for saying more, in my last, than was strictly necessaryin order to reply to your questions.f1

Still it seemed to me that honesty & frankness required me to saywhat I did & that it was more truly respectful to express the statementthan to withhold it.

I very much wish that I could chat with you at leisure over some ofthese matters and trust, dear Sir, that when you come to town you willkindly afford me the opportunity.

For my part I shall never feel anything but gratitude & sincereesteem for the author of “natural selection” but I heartily execratesome who make use of that theory simply as a weapon of offence againsthigher interests and as a means of impeding Man’s advance towards his“end” whatever may have been his “origin”.

In my wanderings about Italy I have been amused and saddened to seeour friend Huxley’s “Mans place in Nature”f2 for sale at most ofthe railway stations amongst a crowd of obscenities. It was evidentthat the Vendors counted on what we may term a “tendency to reversion”and I fear not a few of the purchasers would prefer to find that man“diverged” above the Cynocephali.f3

At present I am mainly occupied with Batrachians but I shall no doubtreturn to my “first loves” some day.f4

With kind regards & many thanks believe me | Dear Sir | Your’smost truly | St George Mivart.

DAR 171: 187

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Footnotes

f1
See letter from St G. J. Mivart, 22 April 1870, and letter to StG. J. Mivart, 23 April [1870].
f2
Mivart refers to Thomas Henry Huxley and T. H. Huxley 1863.
f3
Cynocephalus is the flying lemur. Mivart’s ‘trees’ were meant toshow affinities between primates in relation to various parts of theirskeletons, not genealogical relationships (see letter to StG. J. Mivart, 21 April [1870] and n. 2, and letter from StG. J. Mivart, 22 April and n. 1). Mivart imagines Huxley’s followersas wishing the divergence of humans from the rest of the primates tocome later rather than earlier.
f4
Mivart’s paper on the amphibian order Urodela (now Caudata:salamanders) was read at the Zoological Society of London on 28 April1870 (Mivart 1870).
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