To St G. J. Mivart 26 January 1
Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.
My dear Sir
I have had two bad days in my bed-room & am a good deal shaken & must be brief.— I shd. be an unfeeling wretch, if I was not quite softened by your extremely kind letter.—2 I own that I thought I saw that your religious feelings had led (for I know of no other cause) you to feel personal animosity towards me, but that your kindness had induced you to conquer & mask these feelings, but that they had biassed your arguments. I now quite think that this was an utter delusion & I apologise to you for such thoughts. I express myself very badly but my head feels very weak.— I do most strongly think, & remember writing so just after appearance of Origin, that the belief in Evolution is infinitely more important for science than belief in Nat. Selection;3 but I do not wish to obtrude this opinion in any public work, or at least not without it comes in naturally & is duly guarded.— I think so, because an [immense] field of enquiry is thus opened up on the manner in which each organism has acquired its present structure—causes of variation—mutual sterility—geographical distribution &c &c &c
(By the way do not your adduced facts of anomalous distribution tell quite as much against evolution as against nat. Selection?)4 For my own private part, I shd have felt little interest in evolution if I had not been able to explain in a general manner to my own satisfaction how each organism had become so wonderfully adapted to its conditions. You admit that Nat-selection has done something, but I almost think you wd be puzzled to say what, judging from your argument from jaw of Thylecimus.5 I almost think you wd have been more secure to have followed Owen6 & given Nat. Selection altogether up.—
Pray tell me when I used that horrid arrogant expression—“it is a false belief”—7 When in London, strength & time permitting, I will surely call on you.— Accept my cordial and sincere thanks for your great kindness & for not taking offence with me.— I can write no more.— I do not know whether all this will be intelligible.
CD apologises for having thought that StGJM’s religious feelings had led him to feel personal animosity towards him. [See 7454.]
He remembers having thought and written that belief in evolution is infinitely more important for science than belief in Natural Selection. For his own part he would have felt little interest in evolution apart from the explanation "in a general manner" of how each organism is so adapted to its conditions.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7459A,” accessed on 11 February 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7459A