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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   28 December [1862]1

Down Bromley Kent

Dec. 28th

My dear Huxley

I return enclosed: if you write thank Mr. Kingsley for thinking of letting me see the sound sense of an Eastern potentate.2 All that I said about the little book is strictly my opinion; it is in every way excellent & cannot fail to do good the wider it is circulated. Whether it is worth your while to give up time to it, is another question for you alone to decide; that it will do good for the subject is beyond all question.3 I do not think a dunce exists, who could not understand it; & that is a bold saying after the extent to which I have been misunderstood.

I did not understand what you required about sterility: assuredly facts given do not go nearly so far. We differ so much that it is no use arguing. To get the degree of sterility you expect in recently formed varieties seems to me simply hopeless.4 It seems to me almost like those naturalists who declare they will never believe that one species turns into another till they see every stage in process.—

I have heard from Tegetmeier & have given him the results of my crosses of the birds which he proposes to try, & have told him how alone I think the experiment could be tried with faintest hope of success.5 Namely to get if possible case of two birds which when paired were unproductive, yet neither impotent; for instance I had this morning I had a letter with case of Hereford Heifer which seemed to be after repeated trials sterile with one particular far from impotent Bull, but not with another Bull..—6 But it is too long a story— it is to attempt to make two strains, both fertile, & yet sterile when one of one strain is crossed with one of the other strain. But the difficulty & distinction of the fertile individuals would be beyond calculation.—

As far as I see Tegetmeiers plan would simply test whether two existing breeds are now in any slight degree sterile; which has already been largely tested: not that I dispute good of retesting.

You must have had a very pleasant little tour in Isle of Wight & I hope it has done you a world of good.7 We are both heartily glad of the good account of Mrs. Huxley8

I am tired—so good night | Ever yours very truly | C. Darwin


Eversley Dec. 20/62. My Dear Huxley

I send you this, as a hint of the effect on my natural theology Darwin has had on me.9 If you think it worth, send it on to the good man, as it may please him.

“Once on a time, in Tartary, there was a jolly old heathen miscreant of a Khan, who was given to worshipping a horse’s scull, & other devotions of a rudimentary nature.

And there came to him two bronzes, Moollahs, or other sort of missionaries, animated with a pious desire of converting him to their faith; but as they worshipped two different Deities, they hated each other accordingly, as in duty bound, & each believed the other was going to Gehanna.

Well. The old Kahn was frank enough with them. He confest that he had no great respect for his horse’s scull; that he had totally failed in obtaining from it any rational answer, several times, when he was at a great pinch; & that on the whole, he was ready to take up with any other deity, provided the said deity was wise enough. He demanded therefore of the two Moollahs, wh. of their deities was the cleverest.

Then the first Moollah said, ‘Oh Khan, worship my God. He is so wise, that he made all things.”

‘Wah!’ said the Khan ‘him a great sultan. He is a wise builder.’ But what can thy God do, oh Moollah number two?

Then said the second Moollah, ‘Oh Khan, it is a light thing for a God to make all things. A God who could not do that would not be good enough for a Samoiede who eats blubber, or a Tom-goose who digs mammoth bones. May their mothers graves be defiled! But, Oh Kahn, my God is a God indeed; For he is so wise, that he makes all things make themselves.”

“Wah Wah! said the Kahn. “He is the Sultan of all sultans; He is the wisest of all Master-builders. He is the God for me henceforth, if he be wise enough to make things make themselves.”

Verbum sat sapienti.10


The year is established by the reference to T. H. Huxley 1862c (see n. 3, below).
See enclosure. Huxley had apparently sent Charles Kingsley’s letter with a letter to CD that has not been found.
T. H. Huxley 1862c. See letters to T. H. Huxley, 7 December [1862] and 18 December [1862]. The lectures were reproduced, unaltered, in Huxley’s Collected essays (T. H. Huxley 1893–4, 2: 303–474).
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 18 December [1862]; Huxley had evidently answered CD’s objections in a letter that has not been found.
The letter has not been found, but see the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 28 [December 1862].
Huxley had evidently told CD of this trip in a letter that has not been found.
Kingsley outlined his view of the significance for natural theology of the theory of evolution by natural selection in the preface to his Westminster sermons (Kingsley 1874, pp. v–xxxii). He entreated his readers to study Orchids if they wished to see how little evolution by natural selection affected ‘the old theory of design, contrivance, and adaptation’ (p. xxv), and asserted that, whether or not Darwin’s theory was true, Orchids was ‘a most valuable addition to natural Theology.’ He repeated the view expressed in this letter in the following words (p. xxvii): ‘We knew of old that God was so wise that He could make all things: but, behold, He is so much wiser than even that, that He can make all things make themselves.’
‘A word is enough for a wise man’ (H. P. Jones ed. 1900, p. 123).


Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1893–4. Collected essays. 9 vols. London: Macmillan.

Kingsley, Charles. 1874. Westminster sermons. London.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Returns Kingsley’s letter [see ML 1: 225 n.].

Lectures [to working men] would do good if widely circulated.

On sterility, they differ so much there is no use arguing. To get the degree of sterility THH expects in recently formed varieties seems to CD simply hopeless. Has suggested a test experiment to Tegetmeier [two fertile birds paired and unproductive].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 189, 19: 209–12)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3878,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10