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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Darwin   27 January [1877]1

Jan 27

Dear Charles

Carlyle was here today & said he hoped you had not been annoyed by that forged letter of his.2 The little paragraph I sent you was written by Mr Leckie by his desire.3 He said the letter expressed just the reverse of his opinions that you were a noble generous good Man and your intellect of the highest scientific order. He said he had been bothered to death by the number of letters he got on it 3 yesterday & 1 this very day & he had not heard the last of it.

Going down stairs he said give my compliments & say it was an infernal lie

Yours affc. | EAD


The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald4 publishes the following extract of a letter written to a friend by Mr Carlyle:—5 “A good sort of man is this Darwin, and well meaning, but with very little intellect. Ah, it’s a sad, a terrible thing to see nigh a whole generation of men and women professing to be cultivated, looking around in a purblind fashion, and finding no God in this universe. I suppose it is a reaction from the reign of cant and hollow pretence, professing to believe what in fact they do not believe. And this is what we have got to. All things from frog spawn; the gospel of dirt the order of the day. The older I grow—and I now stand upon the brink of eternity—the more comes back to me the sentence in the Catechism which I learned when a child, and the fuller and deeper its meaning becomes—‘What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him for ever.’ No gospel of dirt, teaching that men have descended from frogs through monkeys, can ever set that aside.’


The year is established by the date of the enclosure, which was pasted to the bottom of the letter (see n. 2, below).
The ‘forged letter’, purportedly written by Thomas Carlyle to a friend, appeared in The Times, 17 January 1877, p. 5 (see enclosure). Carlyle had visited Down House on a number of occasions in 1875 (see Correspondence vol. 23).
Erasmus refers to a brief notice that appeared in The Times, 20 January 1877, p. 7: “Mr. Carlyle on Darwinism.”— “L.” writes:— “Allow me to state on the best authority that the letter about Darwin and his doctrine which was quoted in The Times of the 17th inst. from the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, and was ascribed to Mr. Carlyle, was not written by him.” This note, probably written by William Edward Hartpole Lecky (see n. 5, below), has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald was a Scottish newspaper. In the original article in the Herald of 13 January 1877, the following introduction was given to the quotation: The recent letter of Mr Carlyle on the Eastern Question gave profound satisfaction to his many thousands of admirers in this and other lands: but we have just been privileged with the perusal of another testimony on a greater theme, lately addressed by the Sage of Chelsea to a friend, which will be read by multitudes, especially in his native country, with even greater gladness, not unmingled with thankful gratitude. That the faith in which he was nurtured at his mother’s knee in the old Dumfriesshire home has not lost its hold upon Mr Carlyle, is made abundantly obvious from such words as these:—
The authenticity of the extract was discussed by William Howie Wylie in Thomas Carlyle. The man and his books (Wylie 1881, pp. 328–9). Wylie reported that the so-called letter was actually an account of a conversation Carlyle had had with an American visitor, and that, in spite of the denial in The Times, which Wylie described as having been written by ‘Mr Lecky, the historian’, the account was verified by other witnesses to the conversation. Another version of the account, citing it as ‘remarks addressed to a visitor’, appeared in the Tablet, 12 February 1881, p. 245.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Wylie, William Howie. 1881. Thomas Carlyle. The man and his books. Illustrated by personal reminiscences, table-talk, and anecdotes of himself and his friends. London: Marshall Japp and Company.


Carlyle hoped CD had not been annoyed by that forged letter, which was the reverse of his opinion. [Enclosed is a published extract, said to be taken from a Thomas Carlyle letter, which denies CD’s intellect and regrets his influence.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 105: B99–100
Physical description
3pp encl

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11333,” accessed on 3 December 2020,