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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. B. Innes   4 September [1863]1

Milton Brodie | Forres

4th Sept

Dear Darwin,

I must write a line to thank you for your letter and enlighten you as to what seems an enigma.2 The Duke of Argyle lately made a speech at an agricultural meeting wherein he made large reference to your theory of the origin of species by artificial selection, and improved the occasion by shewing how new and valuable varieties of stock had been bred exhorting to further efforts. Hence some of the papers have named him the Darwinian Duke.3

I heard somehow, before it got public that one of our Dukes was very ill, somehow I mistook which, and thought it Argyle whereas it is Athol,4 so I made a rare confusion, which I thus interpret.

I hope your trip to Malvern will do you much good.5 You had better have come North and next year should we be here I hope you will be tempted to come in a body. There is a fine hydropathic establishment now being built on a beautiful spot at Forres and with our famous climate the vicinity of the sea and good opportunities for excursions to many interesting places I hope the conviction that it is the place will come on you.6 I am afraid I can hardly tempt you and Mrs. Darwin so far towards the North pole now, but I shall be very glad if I can.

I do not shoot much.7 the harvest is not in yet and the birds are small. In this country there is not much lowland shooting before Octr. I persecute rabbits as enemies and knock over a bird occasionally now—

I am sorry to hear Smith is ill.8 If he should die I should like to get Down Hall for a parsonage but likely the property may go to some one as unwilling to sell as he is.9

The Scotch people have continued to call themselves the most moral in Europe till they not only seem to believe it but persuade others who don’t know them.10 The proportion of bastards is larger than in any country in Europe, and the morals in this respect tally exactly. They are certainly far from honest, but they are all as full of pious talk as an English Dessenter. What can I say more?

Our kindest regards to all yours | Faithfully yours | J Brodie Innes


The year is established by the reference to the letter to J. B. Innes, 1 September [1863].
See letter from J. B. Innes, 29 August [1863], and letter to J. B. Innes, 1 September [1863]. The reference is to George Douglas Campbell, eighth duke of Argyll, who chaired the banquet at the Highland and Agricultural Society’s show held at Kelso, Roxburghshire, Scotland, on 4 August 1863. In his speech at the dinner, Campbell heralded agriculture as a ‘science’, and celebrated ‘the power of man … over the animal and over the vegetable world in creating almost, as it were, new species for his own benefit and his own use’ (Scotsman, 5 August 1863, p. 6). He continued: I will not tell you … that that power is an unlimited power; but this I will tell you, that it is a power of which we do not know the limits, because we have never arrived at them and probably never shall.... It is not properly a creative power, and yet it produces results which are very closely allied to creation, and perhaps are difficult to be separated from it. He proceeded to state that no book that he had ever read contained ‘more fertile principles for the progress of agriculture’ than Origin, and he referred favourably to CD’s theory of natural selection, drawing parallels between it and the artificial selection familiar to agriculturalists. The newspaper references to the ‘Darwinian Duke’ have not been identified.
George Augustus Frederick John Murray, sixth duke of Atholl, died of cancer in January 1864 (Complete peerage).
CD and his family had gone to Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, so that CD could undergo a course of treatment at James Smith Ayerst’s hydropathic establishment (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).
Innes refers to the Cluny Hill hydropathic establishment near Forres, Morayshire, the building of which commenced in 1863. In 1864, Alexander Monro was appointed medical superintendent of the new establishment, which was formally opened in August 1865. See Metcalfe 1906, pp. 158–64, and Douglas 1934, pp. 347–8.
See letter to J. B. Innes, 1 September [1863] and n. 6. The reference is to John Smith.
Smith lived at Down Court, Down, Kent; he apparently also owned and let Down Hall, which was nearby, beside the parish church (Census returns 1861 (Public Record Office, RG9/462: 78), Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862). For some time before his removal to Milton Brodie, near Forres, Scotland, in 1862, Innes had been looking for a suitable property in Down to use as a parsonage (see Correspondence vol. 8, letters to John Innes, 18 July [1860] and 6 September [1860], and Moore 1985, p. 469). He had subsequently acquired a property in Down for the use of his curate, Thomas Sellwood Stephens (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862).
See letter from J. B. Innes, 29 August [1863], and letter to J. B. Innes, 1 September [1863].


Complete peerage: The complete peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, extant, extinct, or dormant. By George Edward Cokayne. Revised edition. Edited by Vicary Gibbs, et al. 13 vols. in 14. London: St Catherine Press. 1910–59.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Douglas, Robert. 1934. Annals of the Royal Burgh of Forres. Elgin: the author.

Metcalfe, Richard. 1906. The rise and progress of hydropathy in England and Scotland. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.

Moore, James Richard. 1985. Darwin of Down: the evolutionist as squarson-naturalist. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.


Explains "Duke Darwinii" reference [in 4283].

Family news.

Writes of Scottish immorality and pious talk.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Brodie Innes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Milton Brodie
Source of text
DAR 167: 12
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4290,” accessed on 4 August 2020,

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