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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Julius von Haast   16 December 1876

Canterbury Museum | Christchurch

Decb 16. 1876

My dear Dr Darwin—

In the life, letters & journals of George Ticknor Vol I page 196, there is a passage having reference to Pangenesis, which is so extremely interesting, that I wish to draw your attention to it and as this book, which I found on the table of my wife, is probably not in your possession, I take the liberty to enclose a copy of the passage in question—1

I need scarcely say, that I follow always with great interest the subjects of your studies and that I read your classical works as soon as I can get hold of them with avidity and with the greatest advantage to myself

There is a great contest in Dunedin just now in re. Evolution in which the Gentlemen in black take a most prominent part and talk as usual a great deal of nonsense.— To show you how far this goes, I may only mention that a wesleyan clergyman, who is an honest studious man, Mr Fitchett and who has the misfortune to be a “Darwinian”, in their eyes something very horrible indeed, has been blackballed in a Young Men’s Christian Association.2 However all this tends to advance truth.— Fortunately he has not to say ‘Epur si muove’—3 because this persecution has made him many friends amongst the educated classes & as Hutton4 tells me a great number of educated Church of England people go now regularly to his Chapel.

All this will of course help to open people’s eyes and superstition and its evils will gradually disappear, as education becomes more national and more diffused amongst the working classes—

With my best and most sincere wishes for your health | believe me | ever most faithfully yours | Julius von Haast


The enclosure has not been found. In Life, letters, and journals of George Ticknor (Ticknor 1876, 1: 196–7), when describing a school for the deaf and dumb in Madrid, Ticknor writes: They are well taught to read, write, etc, and, what is more, to speak intelligibly. One fact I witnessed, and knew therefore personally, which is extremely curious. Not one of the pupils, of course, can ever have heard a human sound, and all their knowledge and practice in speaking must come from their imitation of the visible, mechanical movement of the lips, and other organs of enunciation, by their teachers, who are all Castilians; yet each speaks clearly and decidedly, with the accent of the province from which he comes, so that I could instantly distinguish the Catalonians and Biscayans and Castilians, while others more practised in Spanish felt the Malagan and Andalusian tones. How is this to be explained, but by supposing an absolutely and originally different conformation of tbe organs of speech?
Alfred Robertson Fitchett was minister of the Trinity Wesleyan Church, Dunedin. He published a pamphlet, The ethics of evolution (Fitchett 1876), which reconciled evolution and Christianity. He was blackballed from the Dunedin Young Men’s Christian Association and the affair that followed was the greatest controversy over evolution to occur within New Zealand’s religious community in the nineteenth century (for more, see Stenhouse 1999, pp. 66–9).
Eppur si muove: And yet it moves (Italian). This phrase was supposedly whispered to himself by Galileo Galilei after he admitted his error about the movement of the Earth around the Sun at his trial for heresy, but records of the trial do not mention it (Hawking 2002, p. 393).


Fitchett, Alfred Robertson. 1876. The ethics of evolution, or, The relation of the doctrine of development to theism and Christianity: a lecture delivered on behalf of the Dunedin Athenaeum. Dunedin: Mills, Dick, Steam Printers.

Hawking, Stephen. 2002. On the shoulders of giants: the great works of physics and astronomy. London: Running Press.

Stenhouse, John. 1999. Darwinism in New Zealand, 1859–1900. In Disseminating Darwinism: the role of place, race, religion, and gender, edited by Ronald L. Numbers and John Stenhouse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ticknor, George. 1876. Life, letters, and journals of George Ticknor. Edited by George Stillman Hillard. 2 vols. Boston: Osgood. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington.


Sends a passage relevant to Pangenesis [on regional accents distinguishable in the speech of those born deaf] from Life, letters, and journals of George Ticknor [ed. G. S. Hillard, vol. 1 (1876)], p. 196.

Tells of the controversy about evolution raging in Dunedin, with clergy playing a prominent part.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Francis Julius (Julius) von Haast
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Canterbury Museum, Christchurch
Source of text
DAR 166: 13
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10722,” accessed on 29 September 2023,

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