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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Samuel Butler   30 September [1865]1

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

Sep 30

My dear Sir

I am much obliged to you for so kindly sending me your “Evidence &c—”2 We have read it with much interest. It seems to me written with much force, vigour, & clearness; & the main argument is to me quite new. I particularly agree with all you say in your preface.3

I do not know whether you intend to return to New Zealand & if you are inclined to write I should much like to know what your future plans are.4

My health has been so bad during the last five months that I have been confined to my bedroom. Had it been otherwise I would have asked you, if you cd have spared the time to have paid us a visit; but this at present is impossible & I fear will be so for some time.

With my best thanks for your present I remain

my dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Samuel Butler, 1 October 1865.
CD refers to Butler’s anonymously published pamphlet The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as given by the four Evangelists, critically examined ([Butler] 1865). Butler’s main argument, based on conflicting accounts of the resurrection in the four Gospels, was that Christ did not die on the cross and rise from the dead, but rather survived the crucifixion. The publication has not been found in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Much of the essay was later incorporated into The fair haven ([Butler] 1873).
In his preface, Butler accuses English commentators of ‘intellectual cowardice’ for refusing to discuss discrepancies in accounts of the resurrection in the four Gospels, in contrast to German critics. Butler had been unable to find a commercial publisher for the pamphlet and had had it privately printed.
Butler had gone to New Zealand in 1859 and, after some success in sheep ranching, returned to England in late 1864 (DNB). CD had first learned about Butler through his anonymously published article ‘Darwin on the origin of species: a dialogue’, which appeared in the Press of Christchurch, New Zealand, on 20 December 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to an editor, 24 March [1863] and n. 3). Butler’s grandfather, also Samuel Butler (1774–1839), had been headmaster at Shrewsbury School when CD was there between 1818 and 1825 (Freeman 1978).


[Butler, Samuel.] 1865. The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as given by the four evangelists, critically examined. London: [the author].

[Butler, Samuel.] 1873. The fair haven. A work in defence of the miraculous element in our Lord’s ministry upon earth, both as against rationalistic impugners and certain Orthodox defenders. By the late John Pickard Owen, edited by William Bickersteth Owen, with a memoir of the author. 2d edition. London: Trübner.

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

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.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.


Thanks SB for his Evidence [for the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1865)], the main argument of which is new to CD. He particularly agrees with the preface.

Has been confined to his bedroom for the last five months.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Samuel Butler
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add MS 34486 D ff. 58–9)
Physical description
LS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4902,” accessed on 30 May 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13