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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. G. Appleton   2 April 1874


April 2d 1874.

My dear Sir,

Mr Charles Longfellow, the oldest son of Mr Longfellow, has been living a year in Japan, and we are expecting him home daily.1

He has sent before him many boxes full of the fruit of their exceptional and wonderful civilization. As a result wholly independent of Europe, and yet in so many particulars resembling it, (as for instance their castles, which have moats, drawbridges machiciolated walls and towers) I do not doubt you have studied it. With us here in Boston the Japanese are much studied & enjoyed. We have constant sales of their “curios” and appreciate their beautiful lacker and w〈orks〉 in bronze and ivory.2 It wo〈uld〉 seem as if an island situati〈on,〉 so similar to England, had brought them to this excellence.

The freshness and zone of the sea, and a moderate climate, have brought their minds nearer ours, while they retain their own distinctive flavor and individuality.

I venture to send you for your amusement a droll picture which came with my nephews curios, as it is suggestive of some of your own beliefs.3 No doubt the artist had never heard of our new ideas, and yet has stumbled on them. If you think it unworthy a philosopher, you can give it to some child   he will enjoy it at least. It amuses me and may you.

We hear from Mrs Gurney4 strange news and only too good to be true to the effect that you have submitted to a spirit seânce at your home, and not without interest.5 As I have long had the fullest belief in the matter, and am convinced that no semi-explanation will suffise, but that these intelligences are bona fide ghosts and human beings, I rejoice to hear that you have brought your great powers to the notice of the phenomena.

Do, please, let us hear what you think it is. The world would be governed by your opinion, and its recognition would nobly crown such admirable labors.

You have given an impulse to the thought and belief of the world, which has put us on the way to know every thing, and immediately on the heels of your sublime suggestions, comes this pathetic pleader for recognition.

When Lady Elgin shewed me in Paris a model of the new electric telegraph, I said to her that I thought logically that 〈after〉 that spirit intercourse came next.6

When man so wreaks himself on nature, as to carry his nerves beyond himself, the time is come for the nerves of other intelligences to meet his. Indeed the raps of the telegraph and our ghostly friends’ are almost identical.7 I gladly hear from Mr Wedgwood of his new interest in the matter.8 I am confident it announces amazing changes in the world, a hastening of what the heart seems to have prophesied under the name of the Millennium.

Excuse me if I bore you with these things, but I am so interested in them it is natural.

By folding the paper in every way indicated by the creases you will see the Japanese notion of Evolution9 | very sincerely | Yrs | T. G. Appleton.


Charles Appleton Longfellow was the son of the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the nephew of Appleton. He travelled to Japan in 1871, and took part in an exploring expedition organised by the American consul to the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. He travelled further in China, Singapore, and Thailand before returning to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1874. (Laidlaw ed. 1998.)
On the fashion for Japanese art in nineteenth-century America, see Rowland 1972.
The picture has not been found.
Probably Emelia Russell Gurney.
The séance was held at Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house in London on 16 January 1874. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 January [1874] and n. 3.
Appleton refers to Constance Bruce. On the history of the telegraph, see Israel 1992.
On the links between telegraphy and spiritualism, see Noakes 1999.
On Hensleigh Wedgwood’s interest in spiritualism, see Browne 2002, pp. 404–6.
The paper has not been found.


Sends old Japanese picture suggesting evolution, found by Charles Longfellow.

Is pleased to hear CD attended a séance [18 Jan 1874]; asks for his views about communication among spirits.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Gold Appleton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Boston Mass.
Source of text
DAR 159: 113
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9385,” accessed on 16 July 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22