skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   21 September [1871]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Septr 21st

My dear Huxley

Your letter has pleased me in many ways to a wonderful degree.2 I laughed over Mivart’s3 soul till my stomach was contracted into a ball, but that is a horrid sensation which you will not know.— What a wonderful man you are to grapple with those old metaphiso-divinity books. It quite delights me that you are going to some extent to answer & attack Mivart. His book, as you say, has produced a great effect: yesterday I perceived the reverberations from it even from Italy.4 It was this that made me ask Chauncey Wright to publish at my expence his article, which seems to me very clever, though ill-written.5 He has not knowledge enough to grapple with Mivart in detail. I think there can be no shadow of doubt that he is author of the article in Q. Review, in which he shows such scorn & spite towards me: this has mortified me, as he professed warm friendship towards me.6 Did you notice how coolly he assumes, without consulting my authorities, that I had mistaken the malar bone & premaxilla.—7 I wrote to Italy, & have received a fresh paper on Subject.8 I am preparing a new Edit. of Origin, & shall introduce a new chapter in answer to miscellaneous objections, & shall give up greater part to answer Mivart’s cases of difficulty of incipient structures being of no use; & I find it can be done easily.—9 He never states his case fairly & makes wonderful blunders. I have just had through great kindness of A. Agassiz abstract of his unpublished observations on the pedicellariæ of Echinodermata, showing beautifully their gradation & useful development.—10 I shall confine myself to details, & not enter on any general discussion with Mivart.— His Genesis at first appeared to me very formidable, on the principle of aggregation; but after maturely considering all that he has said, I never before in my life felt so convinced of the general truth of the Origin.— The pendulum is now swinging against one side, but I feel positive it will soon swing the other way; & no mortal man will do half as much as you in giving it a start in the right direction, as you did at the first commencement. God forgive me for writing so long & egotistical a letter; but it is your fault, for you have so delighted me; I never presumed that you would have time to say a word in defence of the cause which you have so often defended. It will be a long babble, after we are dead & gone, as we may infer from Malthus even yet not being understood.11 Great is the power of misrepresentation.

Give my love to all your family, including the dear little upcast or downcast fellow.12 | Ever yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from T. H. Huxley and H. A. Huxley, 20 September 1871.
St George Jackson Mivart.
CD refers to Genesis of species (Mivart 1871a; see letter from T. H. Huxley, 20 September 1871 and n. 3). CD may refer Michele Lessona; see letter from Michele Lessona, 5 August 1871 and n. 3.
CD refers to Chauncey Wright and Wright 1871b; see letter from T. H. Huxley, 20 September 1871 and n. 1.
Mivart wrote a hostile review of Descent for Quarterly Review ([Mivart] 1871c); see letter from T. H. Huxley, 20 September 1871 and n. 2.
Mivart made this accusation in [Mivart] 1871c, p. 64; CD discussed malar bones in Descent 1: 124.
See letter from Michele Lessona, 5 August 1871, n. 3, and Lorenzi 1871.
CD refers to Origin 6th ed.; see letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 September [1871] and n. 5.
CD refers to Thomas Robert Malthus and his Essay on the principle of population (Malthus 1826).


On Mivart’s Genesis of species, and THH’s intention to reply to it.

Chauncey Wright’s pamphlet [see 7940].

CD is revising Origin and will answer Mivart on incipient organs. "Pendulum is swinging against us, but will swing back again".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 279)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7958,” accessed on 22 July 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19