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Letter 7858

Darwin, C. R. to Wallace, A. R.

12 July [1871]


CD is allowing his family to decide whether Chauncey Wright’s paper on Mivart is dull.

Health and despondency.

Doubts his ability to answer Mivart successfully [in 6th ed. of Origin].


Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

July 12th

My dear Wallace

Very many thanks. As soon as I read your letter I determined not to printthe paper, notwithstanding my eldest daughter, who is a very goodcritic, thought it so interesting as to be worth reprinting.f1 Then mywife came in, & said “I do not much care much about these things& shall therefore be a good judge whether it is very dull”. So I willleave my decision open for a day or two. Your letter has been, & will be,of use to me in other ways: thus I had quite forgotten that you had takenup case of Giraffe in your first memoir, & I must look to this.—f2I feel very doubtful how far I shall succeed in answering Mivart,— itis so difficult to answer objections to doubtful points & makethe discussion readable— I shall make only a selection. The worst of it is,that I cannot possibly hunt through all my references for isolated points,—it would take me 3 weeks of intolerably hard work.— I wish I hadyour power of arguing clearly. At present I feel sick of everything,& if I could occupy my time & forget my daily discomforts or rather miseries,I wd. never publish another word.— But I shall cheer up I daresaysoon, having only just got over a bad attack. Farewell God knows why I bother you about myself.—

I can say nothing more about missing links than what I have said. I shd.rely much on pre-Silurian times; but then comes Sir W. Thompson likean odious spectre.f3

Farewell.— yours most sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I was grieved to see in Daily News that the madman about the flat earth,has been threatening your life.— What an odious trouble this must have beento you.—f4

P.S. There is a most cutting Review of me in the Quarterly: I have onlyread a few pages. The skill & style make me think of Mivart.f5 I shallsoon be viewed as the most despicable of men.

This Q. Review tempts me to republish Ch. Wright, even if not readby anyone, just to show that some one will say a word against Mivart,& that his (ie Mivarts remarks) ought not to be swallowed withoutsome reflection.—

P.S I have now finished the Review: there can be no doubt it is by Mivart& wonderfully clever.—

I quite agree with what you say that Mivart fully intends to behonourable; but he seems to me to have the mind of a most able lawyerretained to plead against us & especially against me.— God knows whethermy strength & spirit will last out to write a chapter versus Mivart& others;f6 I do so hate controversy & feel I shall do it so badly.—

Postmark: JY 14 71
British Library (Add 46434)



See letter from A. R. Wallace, 12 July 1871. CD refers to ChaunceyWright’s review of St George Jackson Mivart’s Genesis of species(Wright 1871a, Mivart 1871b), and to Henrietta Emma Darwin. Henrietta had read the manuscript of Descent for CD (seeCorrespondence vol. 18, letter to H. E. Darwin, [8 February 1870]and n. 2).
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 12 July 1871 and n. 3.
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 12 July 1871 and n. 9. CD discussedthe absence of transitional forms in the fossil record in Origin 5thed., pp. 208–15, 346–8. He thought William Thomson’sestimate of the time elapsed since the consolidation of the earth’scrust was probably too short for species to evolve accordingto his theory (Origin 5thed., p. 379).
In 1870, Wallace had accepted the challenge to scientific men of John Hampden, whobelieved in a flat earth, to prove the convexityof a stretch of inland water. Wallace’s proof was accepted by theumpire, but Hampden refused to accept the result and subjected Wallaceto a twenty-year campaign of abuse. (See Raby 2001, pp. 206–7.) TheDaily News, 13 July 1871, p. 2, reported that on 10 July Hampden had beencharged with writing a letter to Wallace threatening hislife, and that, unable to meet the necessary sureties to keep thepeace, he was sent to prison. The letter was the one to Annie Wallacereproduced in Raby 2001, p. 207 (see the Field, 15 July 1871,p. 60). The Daily News took the story from the Pall Mall Gazette,which published it on 11 July 1871, p. 4. CD probably eithermisremembered where he read it, or wrote all or some of this letter on13 or 14 July (see postmark).
Mivart’s anonymous review of Descent appeared in the QuarterlyReview for July 1871 ([Mivart] 1871c); the attribution is confirmedby the Wellesley index.
CD added a substantially new seventh chapter to Origin 6th ed.,‘Miscellaneous objections to the theory of natural selection’, to dealwith the criticisms of Mivart and others.
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