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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Darwin   1 February [1864]1

The Athenæum

Feb 1.

Dear Charles

Old Crawford2 today wrote a sketch of a heading for a declaration in favor of freedom of opinion & defending the rights of Bp Colenso.3 I told him that I had no doubt whatever you would sign but that I had not got your authority,4 & I begged that it might be printed to send about. There is a separate list for Subns. which the Bishop has, and it was considered best to make a kind of maximum of £10 (with liberty of repeating if necessary)   Lubbock with two others are the Treasurers.5

yours affec | E D


The year is established by the reference to the subscription fund for the bishop of Natal, South Africa, John William Colenso (see n. 5, below; see also letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 February 1864).
Colenso had been on trial in November and December 1863 in an ecclesiastical court in Cape Town that was constituted for his case; he was tried for the controversial views expressed in the first parts of The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua critically examined (Colenso 1862–79). On 16 December 1863 the bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, and two concurring bishops found Colenso guilty of erroneous teaching, as covered by nine charges of heresy, and Colenso was given four months to retract or be deposed from office (Guy 1983, pp. 110–53). Neither Crawfurd’s ‘sketch’ nor the declaration has been identified; however, when Colenso petitioned the queen to reconsider Gray’s actions and she referred the question to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, many sympathisers contributed to a subscription fund for Colenso’s defence (see Rees ed. 1958, p. 83, and n. 5, below). For earlier references to Colenso’s writings, see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Asa Gray, 6 November [1862] and n. 7, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to John Lubbock, 5 April [1863] and n. 8, letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1863 and n. 12, and letter from T. H. Huxley, 2 July 1863 and n. 12. See also Barton 1998, pp. 434–7.
CD’s reply to E. A. Darwin has not been found; however, see n. 5, below.
Several subscription funds were established for Colenso, one in February 1864, one in April 1864 that was probably a continuation of the earlier one, and one in 1865 (see G. W. Cox 1888, 1: 244, 266; Rees ed. 1958, pp. 83, 86; Guy 1983, pp. 149–50; and notice in the Athenæum, 27 February 1864, p. 303). CD made a contribution of £5 5s. to ‘Robarts & Co— Colenso’ on 8 February 1864 (CD’s Account book–cash account (Down House MS)), but there is no evidence that he signed the list (see n. 3, above). John Lubbock was a partner in the family bank, Robarts, Lubbock & Co. The other two treasurers have not been identified; however, a letter to The Times from Charles Wycliffe Goodwin identifies him as the secretary to a defence fund for the bishop of Natal (The Times, 9 April 1864, p. 7). According to Rees ed. 1958, p. 86, CD was among those who signed the 1865 subscription list, which was started when Colenso’s stipend was not renewed after Gray’s sentence had been declared null and void by the Privy Council. There is no record in CD’s Account books (Down House MSS) of a contribution in 1865.


Colenso, John William. 1862–79. The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua critically examined. 5 vols. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green.

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

Cox, George W. 1888. The life of John William Colenso, D.D., Bishop of Natal. 2 vols. London: W. Ridgway.

Guy, Jeff. 1983. The heretic. A study of the life of John William Colenso 1814–1883. Pietermaritzberg, South Africa: University of Natal Press. Johannesburg, South Africa: Ravan Press.


Tells of a declaration and a subscription list to defend the rights of Bishop Colenso.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 105: B23–4
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4400,” accessed on 29 November 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12