To Charles Kingsley 6 February 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear Mr Kingsley
I thank you sincerely for your letter.—2 I have been glad to hear about the Duke of Argyle, for ever since the Glasgow Brit. Assoc. when he was President, I have been his ardent admirer.3 What a fine thing it is to be a Duke: nobody but a Duke, the first time he geologised would have found a new formation; & the first time he botanised a new lichen to Britain.—4
With respect to the pigeons, your remarks show me clearly (without seeing specimens, though I thank you for the kind offer) that the birds shot were the Stock Dove or C. Oenas, long confounded with the Cushat & Rock-pigeon.5 It is in some respects intermediate in appearance & habits; as it breeds in holes in trees & in rabbit-warrens. It is so far intermediate that it quite justifies what you say on all the forms being descendants of one.—
That is a grand & almost awful question on the genealogy of man to which you allude.6 It is not so awful & difficult to me, as it seems to be most, partly from familiarity & partly, I think, from having seen a good many Barbarians. I declare the thought, when I first saw in T. del Fuego a naked painted, shivering hideous savage, that my ancestors must have been somewhat similar beings, was at that time as revolting to me, nay more revolting than my present belief that an incomparably more remote ancestor was a hairy beast.7 Monkeys have downright good hearts, at least sometimes, as I could show, if I had space. I have long attended to this subject, & have materials for a curious essay on Human expression, & a little on the relation in mind of man to the lower animals.8 How I shd. be abused if I were to publish such an essay! I hope & rather expect that Sir C. Lyell will enter in his new Book on the relations of men & other animals; but I do not know what his recent intentions are.9
It is a very curious subject, that of the old myths; but you naturally with your classical & old-world knowledge lay more stress on such beliefs, than I do with all my profound ignorance.10 Very odd those accounts in India of the little hairy men! It is very true what you say about the higher races of men, when high enough, replacing & clearing off the lower races. In 500 years how the Anglo-saxon race will have spread & exterminated whole nations; & in consequence how much the Human race, viewed as a unit, will have risen in rank. Man is clearly an old-world, not an American, species; & if ever intermediate forms between him & unknown Quadrumana are found, I should expect they would be found in Tropical countries, probably islands. But what a chance if ever they are discovered: look at the French beds with the celts, & no fragment of a human bone.—11 It is indeed, as you say absurd to expect a history of the early stages of man in prehistoric times.—
I hope that I have not wearied you with my scribbling & with many thanks for your letter, I remain with much respect— | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin
As you seem to care for all departments of n. History, I send a pamphlet with a rather curious physiological case.—12
Comments on CK’s letter .
Identifies species of pigeon shot by party.
On CK’s "grand and awful" notion of genealogy of man, CD recalls how revolting was the thought that his ancestors must have been like the Fuegians. His present belief that they were hairy beasts is less revolting.
- Letter no.
- Darwin, C. R.
- Kingsley, Charles
- Sent from
- Source of text
- Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection), 19th Century rare Book and Photograph Shop (dealer) (March 2014)
- Physical description
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3439,” accessed on 25 September 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3439