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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   19 November 1876

4 Marlborough Place | N W

Nov 19th 1876

My dear Darwin

I had asked my wife to make the inclosed copy of a letter I wrote to Mr Voysey, yesterday, with the view of sending it on to you to read—when lo! comes your letter this morning1

I fancy I must have taken that letter with me to South Kensington this morning as I cannot lay hands upon it now so I send you back my copy of the protest— I do not think it would be of any good and if anything of the kind were to be done I quite agree with you that Voysey is not the man to carry it out—2 I confess I have less sympathy with the half & half sentimental school which he represents than I have with thoroughgoing orthodoxy—

If we are to assume that anybody has designedly set this wonderful Universe going—it is perfectly clear to me that he is no more entirely benevolent and just in any intelligible sense of these words, than that he is malevolent and unjust.

Infinite benevolence need not have invented pain & sorrow at all— infinite malevolence would very easily have deprived us of the large measure of content & happiness that falls to our lot— After all Butlers ‘Analogy’ is unassailable and there is nothing in theological dogmas more contradictory to our moral sense, than is to be found in the facts of Nature. From which however the Bishop’s conclusion that the dogmas are true doesn’t follow3

I hope Frank is recovering from the terrible blow which has befallen him—4 We were all greatly grieved to hear of his loss

We have been in some anxiety about our Harry—5 but he is getting better & his mother talks of taking him down to the seaside for a week or ten days

With best remembrances to Mrs Darwin | Ever yours very truly | T H Huxley


Nov 18th 76

Dear Sir

I have read the Protest”, with a copy of which you have favoured me, and as you wish that I shd do so, I will trouble you with a brief statement of my reasons for my inability to sign it.

I object to clause 2 on the ground long since taken by Hume6 that the order of the universe such as we observe it to be furnishes us with the only data upon which we can base any conclusion as to the character of the originator thereof.

As a matter of fact men sin & the consequences of their sins affect endless generations of their progeny   Men are tempted; men are punished for the sins of others without merit or demerit of their own; and they are tormented for their evil deeds as long as their consciousness lasts.

The theological doctrines to which you refer therefore are simply extensions of generalizations as well-based as any in physical science—

Very likely they are illegitimate extensions of these generalizations but that does not make them wrong in principle

And I should consider it waste of time to “protest” against that which is—

As regards No 3 I find that as a matter of experience, erroneous beliefs are punished, and right beliefs are rewarded—though, very often the erroneous belief is based upon a more conscientious study of the facts than the right belief. I do not see why this should not be as true of theological beliefs as any other— And as I said before I do not care to protest against that which is.

Many thanks for your congratulations   My tour was very pleasant & taught me a good deal7

I am | Yours very faithfully | T H Huxley

You are at liberty to make what use you please of this letter.

Rev. C. Voysey


CD’s letter to Huxley has not been found, but it evidently concerned a document sent to him, Huxley, and John Tyndall by Charles Voysey (see letter from Charles Voysey, 17 November 1876, and letter to Charles Voysey, 21 November [1876]). Huxley’s wife was Henrietta Anne Huxley.
No copy of the protest has been found; according to L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 470, it was a protest against ‘certain orthodox doctrines’.
In his Analogy of religion, natural and revealed (Butler 1736), Joseph Butler, bishop of Bristol from 1738 to 1750 (ODNB), drew an analogy between the natural order and divine government as described in the Bible, with the intention of proving that both had the same author.
Francis Darwin’s wife, Amy, had died on 11 September 1876 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
Henry Huxley.
David Hume.
T. H. and H. A. Huxley had visited the United States in August and September 1876 (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 461–9.


Butler, Joseph. 1736. The analogy of religion, natural and revealed, to the constitution and course of nature. To which are added, two brief dissertations. London: James, John and Paul Knapton.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Agrees with CD that Charles Voysey’s "Protest" would not do any good.

Has less sympathy with half-hearted sentimental school than with thorough-going orthodoxy. On theological dogmas, benevolence of the Creator.

[Encloses copy of his letter to Voysey.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Marlborough Place, 4
Source of text
DAR 166: 346–7
Physical description
4pp, encl 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10679,” accessed on 9 March 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24