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Letter 8156a

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

11 Jan [1872]


CD believes that StGJM has been unfair in his criticisms and has misrepresented him; he begs him not to write again. “Agassiz has uttered splendid sarcasms on me, but I still feel quite friendly towards him. M. Flourens cd. not find words to express his contempt of me: Pictet & Hopkins argued with great force against me: Fleeming Jenkin covered me with first-rate ridicule; & his crticisms were true & most useful: but none of their writings have mortified me as yours have done …” [See 8154.]


Down Beckenham | Kent

Jan 11.

My dear Sir

It would be ungracious on my part not to thank you for your letterwhich I can do with sincerity.f2 With time my impression may pass away,& I hope so; but impressions slowly gained & continually strengtheneddo not readily pass away from the mind in old age.— To aid in thegood work I will keep to my resolution & not read your answer to MrWright—f3 The impression which I have taken can hardly be quitefanciful   Agassiz has uttered splendid sarcasms on me, but I stillfeel quite friendly towards him:f4 Ld Flourens cd. not find wordsto express his contempt of me:f5 Pictet & Hopkins argued with greatforce against me: Fleeming Jenkins covered me with first-rateridicule; & his criticisms were true & most useful: but none of theirwritings have mortified me as yours have done—.f6

Besides having been acquainted with you, & thinking that we had a mutualfriendly feeling, I think it is the sense of unfairness on your side, whichmortifies me. For instance, when you detailed all my changes of opinion &errors (I maintain that the former are very far indeed from being as great asyou state),f7 if you had wished to be fair, you wd. have allowed that thesubject was an intricate one—that nearly all the best naturalists in Europehad written on it & criticised my book—that I had in strongest language (atclose of Introduction of Origin in all editions) declared that much remainedun-explained. Under these circumstances it wd. prove me a fool not to havechanged to a certain extent   If I had said that I cd. explain everything youmight have written as you have done.— But it is folly on my part to havewritten at this length.— You will hardly be able to read or understand thisnote, & pray do not answer it.— I should be glad to think that I have beenfoolish & unjust towards you.—

Yours sincerely, | C. Darwin

P.S. If you will look at the last words of Introduction of Origin of1st & all subsequent editions, you will see how expressly I say thatI do not attribute the modification of species exclusively to NaturalSelection: & I do not think I cd have chosen a more conspicuousplace.—f8

I will send you a copy of new Edit. of Origin, soon to be published& now all printed, & I hope there is not a word personally offensiveto you or any other man in it— I have had it stereotyped, so thatI cannot, thank God, answer any more criticisms.—f9 Pray do not writewhen you receive it; for our minds are so fundamentally different thatwhat appears to me (& at least to some others,) sound reasoning willbe to you frivolous.


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The year is established by the relationship between this letter andthe letter from St G. J. Mivart, 10 January 1872.
See letter from St G. J. Mivart, 10 January 1872.
See letter from St G. J. Mivart, 10 January 1872 and n. 1. CDrefers to Chauncey Wright.
On Louis Agassiz’s disagreements with CD, see Lurie 1960,pp. 252–302. See also Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Asa Gray, 11 August [1860], and Correspondence vol. 16, letter to LouisAgassiz, 19 August 1868.
Marie Jean Pierre Flourens had written a book criticising Origin(Flourens 1864; see also Correspondence vol. 12, letter toT. H. Huxley, 3 October [1864], and Stebbins 1988, p. 130).
François Jules Pictet de la Rive had written a review critical ofOrigin that CD nevertheless thought ‘perfectly fair’ (Pictet de laRive 1860; see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to F. J. Pictet de laRive, 1 April [1860]). CD felt that William Hopkins, in his review, didnot understand him fully but he nevertheless appreciated Hopkins’scompliments (Hopkins 1860; see Correspondence vol. 8,letter to Charles Lyell, 6 June[1860]). Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin had criticised parts of CD’sreasoning in the North British Review in 1867; CD took account ofhis arguments in the fifth edition of Origin ([Jenkin] 1867;Origin 5th ed., p. 104). Mivart had criticised the theory of naturalselection most recently in his Genesis of species (Mivart 1871a) andan anonymous review of Descent in the Quarterly Review ([Mivart]1871c).
See [Mivart] 1871c, pp. 50–2.
The last sentence of the introduction to Origin reads,‘Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the mostimportant but not the exclusive means of modification’ (Origin 5thed., p. 6).
See Correspondence vol. 19, letter to R. F. Cooke, 4 November1871. Stereotyping was a process in which movable type was set up andused to make a mould, which could then be used to cast a metal platefor printing. Origin 6th ed. was published in February 1872 (Freeman 1977).
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