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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Collier   16 February 1882

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

Feb. 16th. 1882

My dear Mr. Collier

I must thank you for the gift of your Art Primer, which I have read with much pleasure.1 Parts were too technical for me who could never draw a line, but I was greatly interested by the whole of the first part. I wish that you could explain why certain curved lines & symmetrical figures give pleasure. But will not your brother-artists scorn you for showing yourself so good an evolutionist.— Perhaps they will say that allowance must be made for him, as he has allied himself to so dreadful a man, as Huxley.2 This reminds me that I have just been reading the last volume of essays.3 By good luck I had not read that on Priestly & it strikes me as the most splendid essay which I ever read. That on automatism is wonderfully interesting, more is the pity say I, for if I were as well armed as Huxley I would challenge him to a duel on this subject.—4 But I am a deal too wise to do anything of the kind, for he would run me through the body half-a-dozen times with his sharp & polished rapier, before I knew where I was.— I did not intend to have scribbled all this nonsense, but only to have thanked you for your present.

I remain | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

Everybody whom I have seen & who has seen your picture of me is delighted with it. I shall be proud some day to see myself suspended at the Linn. Soc.y.5


Collier sent a copy of A primer of art (Collier 1882).
The first section of Collier 1882 was about the definition of art and how it evolved from the earliest times. Collier attributed a love of beauty to many non-human animals and attributed the preference of birds for mates with brighter plumage to their sense of beauty (ibid., p. 2). Collier was the son-in-law of Thomas Henry Huxley, having married Marian Huxley in 1879 (ODNB).
Science and culture and other essays (T. H. Huxley 1881) was a collection of essays, most of which had first been published in literary magazines, or were addresses or lectures delivered to various audiences. See letter to T. H. Huxley, 12 January 1882.
The essay on Joseph Priestley had first been published in Macmillan’s Magazine in 1874 (T. H. Huxley 1881, pp. 94–127). CD also refers to the essay ‘On the hypothesis that animals are automata, and its history’ (ibid., pp. 199–245).
Collier had painted a portrait of CD to hang in the meeting room of the Linnean Society (see Correspondence vol. 29, letter from G. J. Romanes, 25 May [1881], and letter to G. J. Romanes, 27 May 1881).


Collier, John. 1882. A primer of art. London: Macmillan and Co.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1881. Science and culture, and other essays. London: Macmillan and Co.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Thanks JC for the gift of his book [A primer of art (1882)]. Wishes JC could explain why certain lines and figures give pleasure.

Comments on Huxley’s essays on Priestley and [animal] automatism [Science and culture and other essays (1881)].

JC’s portrait [of CD] is much admired.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Collier
Sent from
Source of text
The Morgan Library and Museum, New York (Heineman Collection MA 6513)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13689,” accessed on 30 May 2023,