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Darwin Correspondence Project

From F. P. Cobbe   28 March [1870?]1

March 28th

Dear Mr. Darwin,

I feel very proud of having inveigled you into “looking through” Kant—2 Though I cannot quite say, like one of his disciples, “God said: Let there be Light, & there was—the Kantian Philosophy” yet I have retained for these twenty years a most lively sense of gratitude to him for helping me to find (or think I found) a stepping stone or two in the Slough of Despond3

I more than suspect you of a smile in your beard when you write of him as “a great philosopher looking exclusive into his own mind”— But surely may I not argue that, after all, his mind, & that of another philosopher I could name are things not wholly undeserving of attention,— phenomena quite as much needing to be studied & accounted for, say, as even our beloved dogs? We poor humble learners who would fain be the most docile of your scholars, see one of you driving complacently down the “high priori road”, & the other with infinite skill progressing on the solid causeway of material facts— But are you never going to unite your lines of thought & let us see how metaphysics & physics form one great philosophy?—

Pray forgive dear Mr Darwin, my infinite impudence! Though I attended on Saturday a most successful Woman’s Rights Meeting4 I am of opinion that our Ancient privilege of talking nonsense even to those we most deeply honour, is one not to be parted with on any terms!—

I enclose a little notice embodying what I thought the point of those “Cut pages” of Despine—5 Do not think of acknowledging this or returning that

Most truly your’s | Frances Power Cobbe


The year is conjectured from the relationship between this letter and the letter to F. P. Cobbe, 23 March [1870?].
The disciple of Kant was Carl Ludwig Fernow (Schaub 1925, p. 13). The quotation as given by Cobbe also appeared in an article on German theology in the Christian Observer (1855): 449. Cobbe had been inspired by Kant’s Metaphysics of ethics (Kant 1836) to write her first book, The theory of intuitive morals ([Cobbe] 1855–7). Cobbe wrote the book late at night and published it anonymously to avoid offending her father, who held traditional religious views (ODNB).
The meeting was held in Hanover Square on 26 March 1870 and reported in the Times, 29 March 1870, p. 9. John Stuart Mill and John Morley attended; none of the women present were named in the report.
Cobbe probably refers to Despine 1868; see letter to F. P. Cobbe, 23 March [1870?] and n. 2.


[Cobbe, Frances Power.] 1855–7. An essay on intuitive morals: being an attempt to popularise ethical science. 2 vols. London: Longman.

Despine, Prosper. 1868. Psychologie naturelle: étude sur les facultés intellectuelles et morales dans leur état normal et dans leur manifestations anomales chez les aliénés et chez les criminels. Paris: F. Savy.

Kant, Immanuel. 1836. Metaphysics of ethics. Translated by J. W. Semple. Edinburgh: T. Clark.

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.

Schaub, Edward Leroy. 1925. Immanuel Kant: papers read at Northwestern University on the bicentenary of Kant’s birth. Chicago; London: Open Court Publishing Co.


Pleased to have encouraged CD to look at Kant.

Letter details

Letter no.
Frances Power Cobbe
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 186
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7149,” accessed on 16 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18