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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Kingsley   6 June 1867

Eversley Rectory, | Winchfield. June 6/67 My dear Mr. Darwin

I am very anxious to obtain a copy of a pamphlet, wh. I unfortunately lost. It came out shortly after your ‘origin of species’, & was entitled “Reasons for believing in Mr. Darwins theory”—or some such words. It contained a list of phænomenal puzzles 40 or more wh. were explicably by you & not otherwise. If you can recollect it, & tell me where I can get a copy, I shall be very glad—as I very specially want it, in your defence.1

I advise you to look at a wonderful article in the North British about you. It is a pity the man who wrote it had not studied a little zoology & botany, before writing about them.2

The Duke of Argyll’s book is very fair & manly.3 He cannot agree with you, but he writhes about under you as one who feels himself likely to be beat. What he says about the humming birds is his weakest part. He utterly overlooks sexual selection by the females, as one great branch of Natural selection. Why on earth are the males only (to use his teleological view) ornamented, save for the amusement of the females first?4 In his earnestness to press the point—(wh. I think you have really overlooked too much) that beauty in animals & plants is intended for the æsthetic education & pleasure of man, And (as I believe in my old fashioned way), for the pleasure of a God who rejoices in his works as a painter in his picture— In his hurry, I say, to urge this truth, he has overlooked that beauty in any animal must surely first please the animals of that species, & that beauty in males alone, is a broad hint that the females are meant to be charmed thereby—& once allow that any striking new colour wd. attract any single female, you have an opening for endless variation. His argument that the females of each species are as distinct as the males, is naught—for a change in the embryo wh. wd reproduce the peculiar markings of the father, in a male wd be surely likely to produce some change of markings in a female.5

Altogether—even the North British pleases me—for the man is forced to allow some Natural Selection, & forced to allow some great duration of the earth; & so every one who fights you, is forced to allow some of your arguments, as a tub to the whale,6 if only he may be allowed to shun others— While very few have the honesty to confess, that they know nothing about the matter, save what you have put into their heads.

Remark that the argument of the N. British, that geological changes were more violent, & the physical energies of the earth more intense in old times, cuts both ways.7 For if that be true—then changes of circumstance in plants & animals must have been more rapid, & the inclination to vary from outward circumstance greater, & also—if the physical energies of the earth were greater—so must the physical energies of the Animals & plants; & therefore their tendency to sport may have been greater; & not without a gleam of scientific insight have the legends of so many races talked of giants & monsters on the earth of old.

Yours ever faithfully | C Kingsley

CD annotations

3.14 His argument … naught 3.15] scored blue crayon


CD guessed that Kingsley was referring to a short paper in the Geologist by Frederick Wollaston Hutton (Hutton 1861; see letter to Charles Kingsley, 10 June [1867]). There is a lightly marked copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. The paper includes six objections to CD’s theory and answers to them, and twenty-six questions answered by supposing that animals have descended from a common prototype.
The article referred to by Kingsley, published in the North British Review for June 1867 ([Jenkin] 1867), was by Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin, an engineer and critic (Wellesley index). The North British Review was published in Edinburgh and was intended to be ‘liberal in politics and Christian in tone’, giving due place to ‘art, science, philosophy, literature, and culture in general’ (Wellesley index 1: 663). See D. L. Hull 1973, pp. 302–50, for a copy of [Jenkin] 1867, and Hull’s commentary; see also n. 6, below.
Kingsley refers to G. D. Campbell 1867.
Campbell had written: ‘there is no connexion which can be traced or conceived between the splendour of the Humming Birds and any function essential to their life. If there were any such connexion, that splendour could not be confined, as it almost exclusively is, to one sex’ (G. D. Campbell 1867, p. 243). See also letter to Charles Lyell, 1 June [1867] and n. 3.
Campbell had written (G. D. Campbell 1867, pp. 250–1): it would appear that every variety which is to take its place as a new Species must be born male and female; because it is one of the facts of specific variation in the Humming Birds, that although the male and female plumage is generally entirely different, yet the female of each Species is as distinct from the female of every other, as the male is from the male of every other.
For more on Jenkin and his criticism of CD’s theory, see Morris 1994 and Gayon 1998, pp. 85–102. A tub to the whale: ‘(to throw out) a tub to the whale, to create a diversion, esp. in order to escape a threatened danger’ (OED).
See [Jenkin] 1867, pp. 296–302.


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

Gayon, Jean. 1998. Darwinism’s struggle for survival: heredity and the hypothesis of natural selection. Translated by Matthew Cobb. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hull, David L. 1973. Darwin and his critics: the reception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by the scientific community. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Hutton, Frederick Wollaston. 1861. Some remarks on Mr Darwin’s theory. Geologist 4: 132–6, 183–8.

[Jenkin, Henry Charles Fleeming.] 1867. The origin of species. North British Review 46: 277–318.

Morris, Susan W. 1994. Fleeming Jenkin and ‘The origin of species’: a reassessment. British Journal for the History of Science 27: 313–43.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Wellesley index: The Wellesley index to Victorian periodicals 1824–1900. Edited by Walter E. Houghton et al. 5 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1966–89.


Criticises the Duke of Argyll’s book [Reign of law (1867)], particularly on sexual selection.

But CD overlooks God’s intention to instruct man by nature’s beauty.

Criticism of anonymous article in North British Review [by Fleeming Jenkin, 46 (1867): 277–318].

CK supports large sports in response to large environmental changes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Kingsley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 35
Physical description
9pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5565,” accessed on 24 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15