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Darwin Correspondence Project

From C. H. Blackley   13 January 1879

Arnside House, | Stretford Road, | Manchester.

Jany 13th. 1879

Dear Sir,

Some time ago I came across an anecdote that bears somewhat on your theory of the origin of species. I do not know if you will care to have it but to me, who am a Lancashire man, the story seemed to be almost worthy of being placed by the side of that of the late chimpanze “Joe” at the London Zoological Gardens.1 I give it just as it came to me partly in the vernacular of this county or rather of the village in which the meeting occurred. In a school room of one of the country villages of Lancashire a gentleman had one evening gathered together a number of young poeple of both sexes for the purpose of giving a semi-scientific lecture. After the lecture the time was taken up by conversation and in the course of the evening one of the youths who was evidently acquainted with the doctrine of the “origin of species” gathered a group of girls around him and gave them two or three of the leading facts of this doctrine. One of the girls who was not considered to be very bright in her intellect listened to statements of the youth with rather a troubled countenance but said nothing at the time.

In the course of the evening however the girl found an opportunity of putting some questions to the gentleman who had been lecturing and the following conversation occurred:—

‘Sir J— here’s John—has bin tellin us ut thers a mon i London as says at fust men as wur made wur made eawt o monkeys dun yo think its true?

“Well” said the gentleman “not perhaps exactly as you put it but in the main it is true Mr Darwin of London does say that man is descended from the monkey.”

“An dun yo believe it?” “Yes I must say I do because Mr Darwin has, so far, had the best of the argument in spite of the very able opponents who have been pitted against him; but you know it is not quite as you represent it; man was not made directly from a monkey. The change has extended over a long period of time. “Well,” said the girl “Aw dunnot care heaw yo explain it but if it is so aw am summat fain ut awm noan a mon”*

*Something glad that I am not a man

Please do not take the trouble of replying to my note. If the story interests you at all I shall be quite repaid for my trouble

Sincerely Yours | Chas H Blackley

Chas Darwin Esq MA | FRS &c


Joe the chimpanzee, of the Zoological Gardens in London, died in 1874. He was known for his attachment to his keeper, and for his politeness to visitors; he would open the door for them and shake hands when they left. (Daily News, 24 March 1874, p. 3.)


Relates anecdote about a provincial girl’s reaction to being told men descended from monkeys.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Harrison Blackley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 194
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11826,” accessed on 20 March 2023,