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Darwin Correspondence Project

To an editor1   24 March [1863?]2

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

March 24th


Mr. Darwin takes the liberty to send by this post to the Editor a New Zealand newspaper for the very improbable chance of the Editor having some time spare space to reprint a Dialogue on Species. This Dialogue, written by some quite unknown to Mr. Darwin, is remarkable from its spirit & from giving so clear & accurate a view of Mr. Ds. theory.—3 It is, also, remarkable from being published in a Colony exactly 12 years old, in which, it might have thought, only material interests would have been regarded.—4

Yours Obediently | Ch. Darwin


The editor and journal to which CD sent this letter have not been identified; however, in 1911, this letter was discovered among the papers of John Malcolm Forbes Ludlow, a Christian socialist with an extensive acquaintance (DNB; see ‘Samuel Butler’s lost dialogue’, Press, 1 June 1912). See also n. 3, below.
The year is conjectured from the reference to Samuel Butler’s article (see n. 3, below).
CD refers to Butler’s anonymous article entitled ‘Darwin on the origin of species: a dialogue’, which was published in the Press of Christchurch, New Zealand, on 20 December 1862. The article, which was Butler’s first published statement on evolution, presented a sympathetic exposition of CD’s theory in dialogue form. It caused some controversy, and Butler wrote several letters to the newspaper in defence of his earlier piece, which are reproduced together with the original article in S. Butler 1923, pp. 188–207. CD had been sent a copy of the article anonymously, and thought that it might have been written by Julius von Haast (see letter to Julius von Haast, 18 July [1863]); Haast apparently informed CD of the true identity of the author (see letter from Emma Darwin to J. D. Hooker, [7 December 1863]). There is an annotated copy of the article in CD’s Scrapbook of reviews (DAR 226.1: 131–2), identifying Butler as the author. The article was apparently not reprinted in any contemporary journal (see Harkness 1955).
New Zealand became a British colony in May 1841, and was governed as a Crown Colony until 1852, when the New Zealand Constitution Act established a General Assembly. CD may refer to the formation in 1850 of the Canterbury Settlement (of which Christchurch was the main town) by the New Zealand Company. See Gardner 1992.


Butler, Samuel. 1923. A first year in Canterbury Settlement and other early essays. Vol. 1 of The Shrewsbury edition of the works of Samuel Butler, edited by Henry Festing Jones and Augustus Theodore Bartholomew. London: Jonathan Cape. New York: E. P. Dutton & Company.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Gardner, W. J. 1992. A colonial economy. In The Oxford history of New Zealand, edited by Geoffrey W. Rice. 2d edition. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press.

Harkness, Stanley B. 1955. The career of Samuel Butler (1835–1902): a bibliography. London: Bodley Head.


Encloses a dialogue on species from a New Zealand newspaper [S. Butler’s First dialogue on evolution, from the Christchurch Press].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand
Physical description
ALS 2pp (photocopy)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4058,” accessed on 28 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11