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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. B. Innes   4 December 1868

Milton Brodie | Forres | N.B.

4th. Decr. 1868

Dear Darwin,

I owe you much for many kindnesses, the last, your letter, received yesterday is by no means the least and I am indeed very much obliged to you for it.1 When I tell you my own standing point you will see how glad I am of a confirmation of my own impressions. Poor Archbishop Sumner who was not always the wisest of men led me into the business which prevented my resigning Downe years ago.2 We hoped long before now we should have got a good Parsonage built on some good site, (the site has been the obstacle as the money is ready), & the living further augmented. I had a notion if this could be done that I should have liked to come back among you. Diis aliter visum.3 No one can more lament the recent troubles than I do, but I am justified in saying that, however I have failed, I am the only one who tried to do anything. I tried hard for the restoration of the Church, and failed, because people fought for pews & got the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to attend to them.4 I found money for a house, but no one would give, or even sell, a bit of land to build on, and even a clerical house will not stand on air. With any such help as is often afforded to an impoverished benefice by laymen there would have been a much more satisfactory condition.

I imagine, as long as Stephens5 was with you, things were pretty straight. I left them in that order, chiefly because I thought I might return if a house could be got. When Stephens departed, and hastily let the house he had away from me, I decided to give up as early as possible. I had several communications with the late Archbishop, and we had consulted on a plan which would probably have been carried out to the advantage of all, but he is gone, and that done for.

How men can get testimonials, or how people write in such a careless way about Clergymen I cannot imagine. No one could have taken more pains to enquire about Horsman than I did, nor could answers well have been more satisfactory.6 Robinson7 seemed from accounts little less than a saint, but I never contemplated his remaining longer than I could arrange, either to restore the patronage to the Archbishop which I proposed to do and resign immediately, or make some other disposition.

I hoped he would have been a hard zealous labourer, as he was represented to me, and make up for some of Horsman’s sins. But he soon wrote me that he was going for a week or two to visit his brother at Dover; he wrote in terms of anything but satisfaction of the people of Downe on several occasions. As I know Downe, & not him, the impression made on me was rather opposite to the one intended, that the Downe people being very fair as times go he is not a desirable Curate, whereupon when he intimated to me that he was to be away for some weeks I recommended him to resign. This brought an intimation that he should be back before Christmas, this I acknowledged, and repeated my recommendation that he should resign at once. This last letter together with one to Sir J Lubbock8 on the subject went yesterday.

Of all plans open now the best to my mind would be that Arch Bishop Sumners acts should be simply undone and the Archbishop9 resume all responsibility but it seems there are legal difficulties or this would have been done nearly a year ago. Next that Sir J Lubbock as the largest proprietor and a Churchman should be the Patron and appoint— If neither of these can be managed I must find some other plan— It is not any advantage to me to hold it   I have spent thousands in living at Downe while the income only paid house rent, and more than I received every year since I left, so you may believe I am quite sincere in saying I hope Robinson will take my recommendation and resign and that before his three months notice has expired a new and satisfactory Vicar may be appointed—

I paid to Mr. Robinson my subscription of £5.5 for the school. I also send the amount Mr. Horsman was due for day and Sunday School.

I am not sure if I have in former years subscribed for Coal and clothing Club. I rather fancy that when I augmented Mr. Stephens’ stipend I discontinued it, but if I subscribed last year, or if you are in want of funds I shall be happy to give the amount formerly subscribed.10 I have not time to look into accounts and save post

I could hardly congratulate you on the election any way as if I had not had an excuse for being away we should have been on opposite sides

If I could have voted as from personal feeling apart from politics I should have liked I should have voted for Sir John and Talbot. If one on each side had got in I should have desired those two11

Please give Mrs. Innes’ with my own kindest regards to your family party. Johny I am sorry to say is poorly, and I am in doubt whether I may not have to run over to Germany to see about him.12

Believe me | Dear Darwin | Faithfully yours | J Brodie Innes


Innes was perpetual curate (after 1868, vicar) of Down until 1869, although he left Down in 1862 after inheriting an entailed estate at Milton Brodie. He was responsible for appointing a curate in his absence. For more on benefices and the appointment of unbeneficed clergy at this time, see Haig 1984, pp. 215–48. John Bird Sumner, the archbishop of Canterbury, died in 1862. Sumner persuaded Innes to acquire the advowson (the right to appoint the clergyman) of Down in about 1860 (Moore 1985, p. 489).
Diis aliter visum: the gods decided otherwise (Latin).
Private box pews were removed from many churches as part of the church restoration movement (see Chadwick 1970, 1: 520–2). On the role of the Ecclesiastical Commission and the movement to expand the number of free sittings, see Knight 1995, pp. 11–13, 63–6.
CD had referred to Samuel James O’Hara Horsman, the curate of Down from 1867 to 1868, as a ‘swindler’ (see letter to J. B. Innes, 1 December 1868).
Charles Thomas Longley, the archbishop of Canterbury, died in October 1868; he was succeeded by Archibald Campbell Tait in February 1869 (ODNB).
According to CD’s Down Coal and Clothing Club account book (Down House MS), Innes had contributed £2 a year until 1866, when his name was entered but crossed out. There is an entry for ‘Rev’d Stephens’ in 1866 for £1 1s.; in 1867 Horsman contributed the same amount. There is no contribution recorded from either Innes or Robinson for 1868.
In the recent parliamentary election John Lubbock had been a candidate for the Liberal party in the district of West Kent, but was not elected. John Gilbert Talbot, one of two Tory candidates, was elected (The Times, 26 November 1868, p. 10).


Chadwick, Owen. 1970. The Victorian church. 2d edition. 2 parts. London: A. and C. Black.

Crockford’s clerical directory: The clerical directory, a biographical and statistical book of reference for facts relating to the clergy and the church. Crockford’s clerical directory etc. London: John Crockford [and others]. 1858–1900.

Haig, Alan. 1984. The Victorian clergy. London: Croom Helm.

Knight, Frances. 1995. The nineteenth-century church and English society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Moore, James Richard. 1985. Darwin of Down: the evolutionist as squarson-naturalist. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Full background on the difficulties of the vicarage of Down.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Brodie Innes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Milton Brodie
Source of text
DAR 167: 20
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6492,” accessed on 27 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16