skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project


From T. H. Huxley and H. A. Huxley   20 September 1871

Castlemount, S. Andrews

Sep. 20th. 1871.

My dear Darwin

I suppose that I am indebted to you for the copy of Mr Chauncey Wright’s pamphlet on ‘Darwinism’ which reached me yesterday.1 Some parts of it are excellent and the republication of it here will do good— But I did not sit down to write for the purpose of saying that much, but to remark on the odd coincidence that just as Wright’s paper reached me I was sending off to the ‘Contemporary’ a long article I have just finished, mainly versus Mivart & the Quarterly Review of the ‘Descent’—but with some incidental touching up of Wallace.2

Mivart sent me the new edition of his book here—3 I had only glanced at the first Edition and was not tempted to go further— But the second being thrust under my nose, in this way, I thought I would read it carefully. My opinion of its value was not increased by the process and, moreover, I had an intuitive doubt of the soundness of Mivarts knowledge of Scholastic Philosophy & Theology

By great good luck there is an excellent Library here with a good copy of Suarez in a dozen big folios— Among them I dived to the great astonishment of the Librarian and looking into these ‘as the careful Robin eyes the delvers toil’ (vide ‘Idylls’) I carried off the two venerably clasped volumes which were most promising—4 Imagine my satisfaction at finding that our friend has hopelessly misunderstood the ‘Metaphysica’ which he quotes—and what is more to the point that he has overlooked a certain ‘Tracatus de opere sex Dierum’ in which Suarez condemns Augustine & Thomas Aquinas for the very opinions, which Mivart cites and advocates and goes in for the strictest & most literal interpretations of the words of Genesis!5

So I have come out in the new character of a defender of Catholic orthodoxy and upset Mivart out of the mouth of his own prophet—

Next I have taken up the mental & moral question versus Mivart & the Quarterly Review—(who I strongly suspect, from internal evidence, are one & the same)6 and Wallace, and, finally, I have given both the former a piece of my mind about the way they treat you which has made me very angry—

I am sorry to be obliged to pitch into Mivart, who has done good work & is by no means a bad fellow— But his mind is poisoned with his accursed Popery and fear for his soul (which is truly not of any consequence)xx has ruined a capacity which had the making of a man of science in it to begin with   If the Quarterly article is really his, however, my grief will be much mitigated— Whoever wrote that deserves a pounding.

The best of the joke is that William Smith, the Editor talked very big about it, and sent it to me as the greatest blow & discouragement our side had had— And there is no doubt that the effect on the public of that article & of Mivarts book have been such as to make it worth while to bring the real state of the case prominently forward

We are coming to the close of our stay here as we return on the 28th.— It is a pleasant place under the one condition that you play at golf—; & still pleasanter if you talk golf and think golf. I play, talk & think golf from 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m; but most St. Androvians, do the same, from 6.a.m. to 11.p.m.

The great problem & difficulty of life for us is to escape going out to dinner— If we were to stay much longer the struggle for (undisturbed) existence would convert us into liars— at present we have got no further than miserable subterfuges.

The children are all wonderfully improved & I hope, losing their Whooping cough permanently.7 Only your boy Harry8 was in a downcast (or it would be more correct to say upcast) condition last night. I suspect your early teachings had led him to take too large mouthfuls. The wife might be stronger with advantage but she is full of go as usual, and, at present, particularly cock-a-hoop about the annihilation of Mivart, against whom she has a most unjust prejudice.9 She sends her best love to Mrs. Darwin & you & I join

Ever yours faithfully | T H H

xx wife, who has looked over my shoulder, says “not worth a d—n” I say that such expressions are not lady-like.

Of course I didn’t— I’ve no prejudice just or unjust against Mr. Mivart or anyone else— indeed I rather like him.— My love to Henrietta   when are you going to lose her10   Hal says no one will be able to read a line of this— I say it’s the only bit that is legible if he dont go & blot it.—11


Huxley refers to Wright 1871b; see letter to Chauncey Wright, 12 September 1871 and n. 1.
In his article for the November 1871 issue of Contemporary Review (T. H. Huxley 1871b), Huxley criticised St George Jackson Mivart’s On the genesis of species and his review of Descent in Quarterly Review (Mivart 1871a and [Mivart] 1871c). Huxley also commented on Alfred Russel Wallace’s Contributions to the theory of natural selection (Wallace 1871b).
Huxley refers to the second edition of Mivart’s On the genesis of species (Mivart 1871b). Huxley was on his summer holiday in St Andrews, Scotland (L. Huxley 1900, 1: 362–3).
Huxley cited the works of Francisco Suárez in T. H. Huxley 1871b. The St Andrews University Library copy of Suárez’s Opera omnia (Suárez 1616–30) was bound in sixteen large volumes, each of which was closed by two ornamented clasps. The librarian at St Andrews University was Robert Walker. Huxley quotes Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the king (Tennyson 1859, p. 68). Huxley probably carried away vols. 2 and 16 of Suárez 1616–30, as they contained Suárez’s Metaphysicae and De opere sex dierum (see n. 5, below).
In the introduction to his Genesis of species 2d ed. (Mivart 1871b, p. 21), Mivart quoted Suárez’s Metaphysicae, from Suárez 1856–78 (a later edition of Suárez 1616–30; see n. 4, above). Huxley felt that Mivart had falsely applied the Metaphysicae to questions of creation and evolution (T. H. Huxley 1871b, p. 451). In Tractatus de opere sex dierum (Suárez 1616–30, vol. 2), Suárez strongly criticised Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas for their allegorical readings of the beginning of Genesis, stating that he was not able to credit the subtle writings of Augustine, and accusing Saint Thomas of following on in the same vein (Suárez 1616–30, 2: 48 and 58). Suárez particularly attacked a desire to interpret the six days of creation as anything other than a literal six days (Suárez 1616–30, 2: 47–62).
The review of Descent published in Quarterly Review for July 1871 ([Mivart] 1871c) was anonymous, but was almost immediately attributed by CD to Mivart (see letter to A. R. Wallace, 12 July [1871]). The attribution is confirmed by the Wellesley index.
See letter from T. H. Huxley, 30 July 1871.
Henry Huxley was CD’s favourite among Huxley’s children; see Correspondence vol. 16, letter from T. H. Huxley, 10 June 1868.
Huxley’s wife was Henrietta Anne Huxley.
Henrietta Emma Darwin married Richard Buckley Litchfield on 31 August 1871 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
The final paragraph is in Henrietta Anne Huxley’s hand, crossing one page of the letter.


Has received Chauncey Wright’s pamphlet [see 7940].

Has reviewed Quarterly Review article and 2d ed. of Genesis of species for the Contemporary Review [18 (1871): 443–76].

Mivart has hopelessly misunderstood Suarez [Disputiones (1630)] on evolution.

Letter details

Letter no.
Huxley, T. H.; Huxley, H. A.
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
St Andrews
Source of text
DAR 99: 39–42
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7953,” accessed on 26 October 2016,