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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. N. Ridley   [before 28 November 1878]1

2. Park Street | Oxford.

Dear Sir

A sermon of Dr. Pusey’s recently published with the addition of certain notes, takes the form of an attack on the Theory of Evolution.2

I have written to Dr. Pusey to inform him of several very important errors he has made in his definition of the theory which he does not appear to understand. But there are several points which I should also like to deny, and on these I have taken the liberty to write to you, especially since the sermon has made a great impression on undergraduates, & must have given them an entirely wrong view of the case.

First Dr. Pusey says, that you wrote the “origin of species” ‘with a Quasi Theological not with a scientific object”, namely ‘to overthrow the dogma of separate creations’. Whence he argues that you were biassed when you wrote it & the result is therefore invalid.3


That the “transformation theory” is a special object of your interest because it dispenses with the intervention of a personal creator.4

Third, that your object was to establish a First cause introduced “to save us from the conception of eternity of matter, but who, after his creation looks on unconcerned upon the result of his act upon his creatures”, and that this is the essence of Darwinism5

These are the three things I have ventured to ask you about, all the important parts in the rest I have answered to my satisfaction, if not to his. But these I could not directly answer as they seem to be based on ideas of your meaning rather than on actual facts.

If you should kindly answer this letter, would you say if I might publish in the “Undergraduates journal”, your answer, as I hold it important that erroneous notions of this theory should not be promulgated.

Trusting that you will pardon my troubling you with this communication

I remain | Yours truly | Henry N. Ridley

CD annotations

3.1 ‘with … object”, 3.2] double scored pencil


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to H. N. Ridley, 28 November 1878.
The sermon by Edward Bouverie Pusey was delivered at the University of Oxford on 3 November 1878; it was first published in the Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduate’s Journal, 7 November 1878, pp. 66–8, and republished with notes as Un-science, not science, adverse to faith (Pusey 1878).
See Pusey 1878, p. 54. All the direct references to CD are in the notes added for publication rather than in the body of the sermon. Pusey quotes CD in Descent 1: 153: ‘I have at least, as I hope, done good service in aiding to overthrow the dogma of separate creations.’
Pusey 1878, p. 56.
Pusey 1878, p. 57.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Pusey, Edward Bouverie. 1878. Un-science, not science, adverse to faith: a sermon preached before the University of Oxford on the twentieth Sunday after Trinity, 1878. Oxford: Devonport Society of the Holy Trinity.


Wishes to defend CD from the attacks E. B. Pusey made in his sermon [see 11763]. Raises specific questions on CD’s theological views in order to refute Pusey’s accusations.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Nicholas Ridley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 202: 119
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11765,” accessed on 28 February 2020,