To John Frederick William Herschel 23 May 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
Dear Sir John Herschel
You must permit me to have the pleasure to thank you for your kind present of your Physical Geography.2 I feel honoured by your gift, & shall prize this Book with your autograph. I am pleased with your note on my book on species, though apparently you go but a little way with me.3 The point which you raise on intelligent Design has perplexed me beyond measure; & has been ably discussed by Prof. Asa Gray, with whom I have had much correspondence on the subject.—4 I am in a complete jumble on the point. One cannot look at this Universe with all living productions & man without believing that all has been intelligently designed; yet when I look to each individual organism, I can see no evidence of this. For, I am not prepared to admit that God designed the feathers in the tail of the rock-pigeon to vary in a highly peculiar manner in order that man might select such variations & make a Fan-tail; & if this be not admitted (I know it would be admitted by many persons), then I cannot see design in the variations of structure in animals in a state of nature,—those variations which were useful to the animal being preserved & those useless or injurious being destroyed. But I ought to apologise for thus troubling you.—
You will think me very conceited when I say I feel quite easy about the ultimate success of my views, (with much error, as yet unseen by me, to be no doubt eliminated); & I feel this confidence, because I find so many young & middle-aged truly good workers in different branches, either partially or wholly accepting my views, because they find that they can thus group & understand many scattered facts. This has occurred with those who have chiefly or almost exclusively studied morphology, geographical Distribution, systematic Botany, simple geology & palæontology. Forgive me boasting, if you can; I do so because I shd. value your partial acquiescence in my views, more than that of almost any other human being.—5
Believe me with much respect | Yours, sincerely & obliged | Charles Darwin
Thanks JFWH for his "Physical geography" [from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1861)]
and for what he says about Origin, though JFWH goes but a little way with CD. Gives reasons why he cannot accept "Design" in nature, though he is in a "complete jumble" on the point. Is confident of his views because they have aided good workers in several fields to "group and understand many scattered facts".
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3154,” accessed on 30 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3154