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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Fawcett   16 July [1861]1

Bodenham | Salisbury

July 16th.

My Dear Sir,

I feel that I ought not to have so long delayed writing to thank you for your very kind letter to me about my article on your Book, in Macmillan’s Magazine2

I was particularly anxious to point out that the Method of Investigation pursued was in every respect, philosophically correct; I was spending an evening last week with my friend Mr. John Stuart Mill and I am sure you will be pleased to hear from such an authority that he considers that your reasoning throughout is in the most exact accordance with the strict principles of Logic. He also says, the Method of investigation you have followed is the only one proper to such a subject.3

It is easy for an antagonistic reviewer when he finds it difficult to answer your arguments to attempt to dispose of the whole matter by uttering some such commonplace, as “This is not a Baconian induction”.4

I expect shortly to be spending a few days in your neighbourhood and if I should not be intruding upon you I should esteem it a great favour if you will allow me to call on you, and have half an hours conversation with you.

As far as I am personally concerned I am sure I ought to be grateful to you, for since my accident nothing has given me as much pleasure as the perusal of your Book. Such studies are now a great resource to me.5

Believe me to be, | My Dear Sir | Yours very truly | Henry Fawcett.

C. Darwin Esq.

CD annotations

Top of first page: ‘Keep.’ blue crayon, circled blue crayon


The year is given by the reference to Fawcett 1860 (see n. 2, below).
CD’s letter to Fawcett, commenting on his article ‘A popular exposition of Mr. Darwin on the Origin of species’, published in the December 1860 issue of Macmillan’s Magazine (Fawcett 1860), has not been found. There is an annotated copy of the review in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD mentioned Fawcett’s review, however, in a letter to Thomas Henry Huxley, 5 [December 1860] (Correspondence vol. 8).
In the fifth edition of his System of logic, ratiocinative and inductive, being a connected view of the principles of evidence, and the methods of scientific investigation (Mill 1862), the philosopher John Stuart Mill referred to CD’s ‘remarkable speculation’ on the origin of species as an ‘unimpeachable example of a legitimate hypothesis.’ For Mill, natural selection was ‘not only a vera causa, but one proved to be capable of producing effects of the same kind with those which the hypothesis ascribes to it’, and as for Adam Sedgwick’s charge (in [A. Sedgwick] 1860) that CD had violated the rules of induction, Mill asserted that this was ‘unreasonable’ (Mill 1862, p. 18 n.): The rules of Induction are concerned with the conditions of Proof. Mr. Darwin has never pretended that his doctrine was proved. He was not bound by the rules of Induction, but by those of Hypothesis. And these last have seldom been more completely filled. Mill’s immediate response to Origin is given in a letter to Alexander Bain, 11 April 1860 (Mineka and Lindley eds. 1972, p. 695). [Darwin’s book] far surpasses my expectation. Though he cannot be said to have proved the truth of his doctrine, he does seem to have proved that it may be true which I take to be as great a triumph as knowledge & ingenuity could possibly achieve on such a question. For an interpretation of Mill’s position concerning CD’s ‘hypothesis’, see Hull 1973, pp. 27–8.
This statement appeared in Fawcett’s article (Fawcett 1860, p. 83), where he attributed it to the author of the review of Origin in the Quarterly Review. The author of the review, Samuel Wilberforce, criticised CD throughout for having violated ‘true philosophy’, which he equated with Baconian induction. For CD’s response to this charge, see Autobiography, p. 119. See also Hull 1973.
Fawcett, a fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, had lost his sight in a shooting accident in 1858 (DNB).


Elaborates on his article ["A popular exposition of Mr Darwin on the origin of species", Macmillan’s Mag. 3 (1860): 81–92]. Was anxious to point out that CD’s method of investigation is philosophically correct. Asks permission to call.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Fawcett
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Bodenham, Salisbury
Source of text
DAR 98 (ser. 2): 29–30
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2868,” accessed on 24 April 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9