From St G. J. Mivart 24 January 1871
7, North Bank, | N.W.
Janry. 24th 1871.
My dear Sir,
I thank you for your two letters dated Janry 23d—especially for No. 2.1
I was sorry to find that you thought I had not criticised you fairly but I am sure you will do me the justice to believe that I wished to be fair
Over and above my being “bound over”, as it were, to be just by your past kindness to me2—I beg you to believe that I am confident the cause of “right” could never gain by any, however unintentional, acts of injustice or unkindness.
I am much obliged to you for calling my attention to certain points and if my little book should ever reach a second edition it will of course be my duty (and considering the sentiments I entertain for you also my pleasure) to make modifications accordingly.
I shall certainly withdraw the expression “change of front”—replace “mimic” by “mock” (a quite accidental error) and also—if you like—remove the word “dogmatic” or introduce an explanatory, modifying sentence.3
I have also, in all probability, unconsciously represented you as more attached to the predominance of action of natural selection than is really the case since you say it is “infinitely more important” that I should “hold fast to the general principle of Evolution” than to it.4 I will, with pleasure, add a note to say so but my book will not, I conceive, be less usefully directed against that view as I know others do hold it—being in this respect “plus royalist que le Roi”—5 As to the fibres of Corti, I do not care a straw—as some structure must minister to that refined audition & if not yet discovered will probably be so later.6
I must now beg you to believe that what I said in my last letter was not dictated by mere politeness but very seriously meant—7 My distinction between “material” & “formal” will explain how while execrating certain views & acts I may yet very properly entertain the tenderest feelings towards persons holding the one or performing the other— If my medical man with the greatest pains, sympathy & trouble treats me wrongly & permanently injures me, am I not to be sensible of his pains & kindness because through some circumstance of education or what not—the result of his well meant labour is unfortunate?
I wish much that I had the priviledge of more frequent conversations with you and I repeat I hope you will give me the opportunity when you can.
Unhappily the acceptance of your views means with many the abandonment of belief in God and in the immortality of the soul together with future rewards & punishments. No words of mine could represent an appreciable fraction of what I think as to the importance of such an abandonment—yet I am far from blaming you personally for (knowing you as I do) I am persuaded you only seek the promotion of truth though I regret you do not more protect against these unnecessary irreligious deductions.
Apart, however, from considerations as to eternity, I think that the destruction of such beliefs is most important—viewed from the comparatively trivial stand-point of the temporal happiness of mankind. I have just finished reading Von Sybel’s history of the french revolution. God grant we in England may not be approaching a religious decay at all similar to that of the middle of the 18th century in France which Frenchmen are now paying for in blood & tears!8
With kindest regards believe me | My dear Sir | Always your’s very sincerely | St Geo. Mivart.
Ch. Darwin Esq F.R.S.
Is sorry CD found Genesis of species unfairly critical. Assures CD of his just intentions and offers to alter certain words and phrases in a new edition. Emphasises his high regard for CD but fears his views are leading to religious decay.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7454,” accessed on 3 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7454