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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Kingsley   11 December 1867

Trinity Lodge, | Cambridge.

Decr 11/67

My dear Mr. Darwin

I have been here 3 or 4 days;1 & have been accidentally drawn, again & again, into what the world calls Darwinism, & you & I & some others fact & science— I have been drawn thereinto, simply because I find everyone talking about it to anyone who is supposed to know (or mis-know) anything about it: all shewing how men’s minds are stired.

I find the best & strongest men coming over. I find one or 2 of them like Adams (& Cayley) fighting desperately.2

1. Because, being really great men, they know so much already wh. they cannot coordinate with your theories (at least as yet) & say (as they have a right) “I will stand by what I do know from mathematics, before I give in to what I dont know from ——

That last dash is the key of the position. They dont know. The dear good fellows have been asking me questions.—e.g. “You dont say that there are links between a cat & a dog? If so, what are they?— To wh. I have been forced to answer—my dear fellow, you must read & find out for yourself— I am not bound to answer such a question as that. I am not bound to teach you the alphabet, while you are solemnly disputing about my translation of the language.

That is what it comes to, my dear & honoured master, for so I call you openly where I can, among “great swells’, as well as here in Cambridge— Why men dont agree with you, is because they dont know facts: & what I do is—simply to say to every one, as I have been doing for 3 days past “Will you kindly ascertain a few facts—or at least ascertain what facts there are, to be known or disproved, before you talk on this matter at all?”—& I find, in Cambridge, that the younger M.A’s. are not only willing, but greedy, to hear what you have to say; & that the elder, (who have of course more old notions to overcome) are facing the whole question in a quite different tone from what they did 3 years ago. I wont mention names for fear of “compromising” men who are in an honest, but “funky” stage of conversion: but I have been surprised, coming back for 3 or 4 days, at the change since last winter.

I trust you will find the good old university (wh. has always held to physical science & free thought—& allows—as she always has done—anybody to believe anything reasonable, provided he dont quarrel with his neighbours) to be your finest standing ground in these isles.

I say this—especially now—because you will get, I suppose, an attack on you by an anonymous “Graduate of Cambridge”3—wh. I found in the hands of at least one very wise & liberal man—who admired it very much—but knew nothing of The Facts: he shewed it me, & in the first 3 pages I opened at hazard, I pointed him out 2 or 3 capital cases of ignorance or omission, on wh. I declined to read any more of the book, as coming from a man who knew—or did not choose to know—anything about The Facts. He was astonished, when I told him that the man was an ignoramus, or worse, & could be proved such. & I think I have done him good. & so it will be with many more—

Excuse the bad writing— I have a pen wh. if natural selection influenced pens, wd have been cast into the fire long ago: but the disturbing moral element makes me too lazy to cast it thereinto—& to find a new one.

I have—as usual—a thousand questions to ask you—& no time, nor brain, to ask them now.

But ever I am— | Your affte pupil | C Kingsley

Dont trouble yourself to answer me. But if you write to me, I return to Eversley tomorrow.4& give my love to Lubbock.5


Kingsley went to Cambridge twice a year to deliver his professorial lectures (Kingsley ed. 1877, 2: 153).
The Cambridge mathematicians John Couch Adams and Arthur Cayley were friends (DNB, s.v. Cayley, Arthur).
Kingsley refers to Robert Mackenzie Beverley’s The Darwinian theory of the transmutation of species examined by a graduate of the University of Cambridge ([Beverley] 1867).
Eversley, Hampshire.


[Beverley, Robert Mackenzie.] 1867. The Darwinian theory of the transmutation of species examined by a graduate of the University of Cambridge. London: James Nisbet & Co.

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.


CK is drawn into discussions of Darwinism everywhere in Cambridge. The climate has changed in the past three years: the younger M.A.s are greedy to know more and the criticism of the older Fellows has a new tone.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Kingsley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Trinity Lodge, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 169: 38
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5730,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

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