skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Leslie Stephen   11 January 1881

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

Jan 11 1881

Dear Leslie Stephen.—

It has suddenly occurred to me that you might possibly like to place the Life of Erasmus Darwin in your Library, so I have told Murray to send you a copy.—1

I fear that you will have groaned over my daughter, Henrietta’s, long letter, & will have thought the whole lot of us the most unreasonable of human beings.2 The sole excuse which I can offer is that I shall value your verdict most highly & act on it implicitly. What you said to my daughter at some dinner-party consoled me much, for it is difficult to avoid being pained at being publicly called in ones old age a liar, owing to having unintentionally made a small omission, which omission, as far as I can see, makes no difference to Mr. Butler or anyone else.3 Hoping for your forgiveness & begging you not to add to your trouble by acknowledging this note, I remain

Yours sincerely & obliged | Charles Darwin


Erasmus Darwin was published by John Murray; no letter to Murray has been found.
Samuel Butler had accused CD of making a false statement (see Butler 1880, pp. 58–62). In the preface to Erasmus Darwin, p. iv, CD had stated that Ernst Krause’s essay, which comprised the second part of the book, was completed before the publication of Butler’s Evolution, old and new (Butler 1879), whereas Krause’s original essay (Krause 1879) was substantially modified before it was translated into English, and the revised version included an allusion to Butler’s work (see Erasmus Darwin, p. 216).


Butler, Samuel. 1879. Evolution, old and new: or, the theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck, as compared with that of Mr. Charles Darwin. London: Hardwicke and Bogue.

Butler, Samuel. 1880. Unconscious memory: a comparison between the theory of Dr. Ewald Hering, … and the ‘Philosophy of the unconscious’ of Dr. Edward von Hartmann. London: David Bogue.

Erasmus Darwin. By Ernst Krause. Translated from the German by W. S. Dallas, with a preliminary notice by Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1879.

Krause, Ernst. 1879a. Erasmus Darwin, der Großvater und Vorkämpfer Charles Darwin’s: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Descendenz-Theorie. Kosmos 4 (1878–9): 397–424.


Discusses allegation [about Erasmus Darwin] made by Samuel Butler. Will value LS’s verdict highly.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13005,” accessed on 13 September 2023,