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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   26 March [1867]1


March 26

My Dear Father,

I send you one of the most delightful inventions of the age, going by the name of a Cardigan Jacket.2 I find it most comfortable over one’s waistcoat when riding or travelling. I should think it would save you the agony of having to put on a second flannel waitscoat in the middle of the day.

I am astonished to find how disappointed I am with the D of Argyle; I really can hardly finish it, some of it is the most illogical stupid twaddle I ever read; especially “creation by law” and about the humming bird; he mentions you enough but I believe he does not understand and will not understand the Origin.3 being a Duke has played the deuce with him, he thinks I’m a Duke, and a Duke is just about the finest thing that grows, the creator can’t be very much finer, I use my wonderful & ducal mind in such and such a way to produce certain things, therefore of course the creator does the same Q.E.D.

I hope Horace is going on well.4 | Your affect son | W.E.Darwin


The year is established by the reference to the duke of Argyll’s book, The reign of law, which was published at the beginning of March 1867 (see n. 3, below).
The cardigan (a knitted over-waistcoat with or without sleeves) was named for James Thomas Brudenell, seventh earl of Cardigan; the word first appeared in print in this context in 1868 (Rutt 1987, p. 135).
The reign of law, by the eighth duke of Argyll, George Douglas Campbell, had just been published (Campbell 1867; Publishers’ Circular, 15 March 1867, p. 149). In a chapter entitled ‘Creation by law’ (Campbell 1867, pp. 217–94), Campbell gave a critique of natural selection and discussed other aspects of CD’s theory as presented in Origin. Campbell discussed the plumage of humming-birds, concluding that the variety of colours and forms served no function in the battle for life and could not be explained by any physical law, but must be referred to a creative law that promoted beauty and variety of form (Campbell 1867, pp. 242–9).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Horace Darwin returned to Down from school on 16 March 1867 with a fever, and began taking quinine on 1 April. For 27 March, Emma recorded ‘fever at 4’ (see also Correspondence vol. 15, letter to W. E. Darwin, 27 [March 1867]).


Campbell, George Douglas. 1867. The reign of law. London: Alexander Strahan.

Rutt, Richard. 1987. A history of hand knitting. London: Batsford.


Sends CD a Cardigan Jacket, ‘one of the most delightful inventions of the age’.

Discusses the Duke of Argyll.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 27)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5460F,” accessed on 7 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)