From St G. J. Mivart 26 January 1871
7, North Bank, | N.W.
Janry. 26th 1871.
My dear Sir
I am exceedingly concerned to hear you have been confined to your bed-room & that you are still more or less unwell—1 I regret you should have taken the trouble to reply to me so quickly and I beg that in future you will never hurry to do so as I shall always attribute your silence to some accidental hindrance.
I am very glad you do not now think that I was biassed by an odium theologicum2 you will be still more convinced that I was not, when we have had a chat. It was by no means unnatural that you should have thought I was.
I do not think that my facts as to geographical distribution tell against evolution— It is quite conceivable to me that pleurodont lizards might have been evolved independently in two places & that Solenodon & Centetes might have had only a remote common ancestry.3
It is fortunate for science, my dear Sir, that you did take what you will forgive me for calling an exaggerated view of the action of “Natural Selection” since but for that, you would not have brought the world to see the truth of the doctrine of Evolution henceforth indisputably associated with your name & labours.
I cannot agree with you in thinking I should have done better to have “given up natural selection altogether”. at p. 240 I have said what I believe Nat. Selection does do & which seems to me no trifling or unimportant work subordinate as it may be.4
I have referred to my notes as to the the phrase you speak of— Unfortunately I have no copy of your work on “An. & plants u. domestcn.” but my note is as enclosed After mentioning the frequent sudden appearances of domestic varieties Mr Darwin speaks of “the false belief as to the similarity of natural species in this respect” An. & Plants under Domestication. Vol II. p. 414.5
I have now read the first part of Vol. I. you have kindly sent me and excepting my strong divergence as to the “Moral sense” &c I have been delighted with it.6 Your remark as to an objector revealing his descent by the very act of sneering is capital.7 As to man’s relationship (as regards his animality) to other animals I am quite disposed to agree with you and to think that his bodily distinctness is rather under than over that of a family.8 In my fragments on the back & limb-bones of the Primates I showed my conviction that as regards those parts he was far more like the higher Apes than the higher Apes were like the lower ones9 & although I could not speak of the whole, of his organization, because I had not worked at it, I was inclined to suspect that all it’s details would tell the same story. This does not of course prevent my regarding him in the light of his spiritual nature & something different from the whole visible creation and being really therefore (as I think I once before said to you) more different from a Gorilla than is a Gorilla from a lump of granite.
My little book, in spite of it’s opposition to some of your views, will tend I think to make what you say as to man’s descent less unpalatable to many, & will therefore hinder some from withholding that appreciation which is your due.10 I mean that if through what I have said some see that they can hold all you say as regards man’s animality without giving up a fraction of truths of another order they will thereby be less indisposed to do you justice.
I look forward with interest to see what you will say as to sexual selection in Apes and whether you think the coyness of the Simian maiden has caused the blush to mantle not on her own cheek but to permanently tinge the livery of her admirer—
With very kind regards & the hope you may soon be in your usual health at last & thanking you for your promise of a visit when you can manage it I remain | My dear Sir | Your’s very truly | St Geo Mivart.
Your notion as to the explanation of lunar periodicity is very ingenious though I know you only throw it out as a suggestion11
Is glad CD does not believe he is biased by an odium theologicum. Comments on the first volume of Descent. Is convinced of the truth of evolution, but believes natural selection plays only a secondary role and that man is fundamentally different from the rest of creation.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7458,” accessed on 23 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7458