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Letter 8070

Darwin, C. R. to Abbot, F. E.

16 Nov [1871]

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    Explains why he must decline to write for the Index: his health is poor and he has never systematically thought much on religion. FEA may print his comments, "with qualifications", if he wishes.


Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Nov. 16th

My dear Sir

I have read again ``Truths for the Times'', & abide by my words as strictly true. If you still think fit to publish them, you had better perhaps omit ``I believe'' & add ``almost'' to every word—so that it will run &lldots;&lldots;``& I agree to almost every word.'' The points on which I doubtfully differ are unimportant but it is better to be accurate.

I shd be much obliged if you would somehow preface the words as an extract from a letter not originally intended for publication, or to this effect; as it seems to be somewhat conceited or arrogant otherwise to express my assent.—

I can say with entire truth that I feel honoured by your request that I shd. become a contributor to the Index, & am much obliged for the draft.— I fully, also, subscribe to the proposition that it is the duty of everyone to spread what he believes to be the truth; & I honour you for doing so with so much devotion & zeal. But I cannot comply with your request for the following reasons; & excuse me for giving them in some detail, as I shd. be very sorry to appear in your eyes ungracious. My health is very weak: I never pass 24 hours without many hours of discomfort, when I can do nothing whatever. I have thus also lost two whole consecutive months this summer. Owing to this weakness, & my head being often giddy I am unable to master new subjects requiring much thought, & can deal only with old materials. At no time am I quick thinker or writer; whatever I have done in science has solely been by long pondering, patience & industry.—

Now I have never systematically thought much on Religions, in relation to Science, or on morals in relation to society, & without steadily keeping my mind on such subjects for a long period, I am really incapable of writing anything worth sending to the Index. Many years ago I was strongly advised by a friend never to introduce anything about religion—in my works, if I wished to advance science in England; & this led me not to consider the mutual bearings of the two subjects. Had I foreseen, how much more liberal the world would become, I shd. perhaps have acted differently.— As I honestly feel I could not be an efficient contributor to the Index, I am sure that you will excuse my returning your draft. Forgive this untidy note, for my head has been giddy for much of the day,

With entire respect & good wishes. believe me, My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I see I have not thanked you for the extreme kindness of your letter, received this morning.—

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