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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. B. Innes   21 January 1871

Milton Brodie

21st. Janry 1871—

Dear Darwin,

I was right glad to get your letter yesterday, and to see that you are jolly under trying circumstances, like the immortal Mark Tapley.1 And I am very glad too that you have no grudge against me for the share I had in sending you two such bad lots. I do not acquit myself, for I feel I ought to have stuck to my own post, or given it up at once to the Archbishop, and the result has made me very much lament I did not take a more correct view of duty.2

Certainly you and I never were like to quarrel over our differences, thanks mostly to your most kind forbearance with some hot headedness &c.3 I am sometimes amused at the look of wonder which follows my statement in the midst of a Darwinian theory discussion. “Mr Darwin is one of my very most valued and dearest friends”. I always think so, and say so when occasion offers. Dear me! if some of your naturalist, and my ritualist friends were to hear us two saying civil things to each other, they would say the weather was going to change, or Paris to be relieved, both which I wish might happen—4 Nobody can tell what that mad fool may do or say, he can do no harm anyway, and I don’t see how under any circumstances you could be had up for examination.5 I have not the least doubt that everything you said was true and only part of the truth, but you could not be called to prove or disprove. I may be, and I don’t care in the least if I am. It would not bore me, and even if it did I should accept it as a pennance for my bad care of you lambs in the choice of a shepherd. So have no hesitation in saying I am quite willing to be called if necessary. For your guidance, and that of your Solicitor I put in a sort of form, that is separated from gossip and rubbish what I could really say about the Arcades Ambo6

I am glad to hear matters have been better of late. When we get a house built, and a Lady in it, all without asking for subscriptions, I hope the Parishioners will come forward liberaly and restore and enlarge the Church7

I am afraid our sermons are dull that is perhaps our misfortune, It is a wilful sin if we make them long as well. I cut mine down now to 10 or 15 minutes, and every body says they are “so glad when I preach because they are sure of a short sermon”. Can anything in the world be ruder? but I bear it like a Christian.

With our united kindest regards to you all | Believe me | Dear Darwin | Yours faithfuly | Brodie Innes


See letter to J. B. Innes, 18 January [1871]. Mark Tapley was a character in Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit (London: Chapman and Hall, 1844), who made a point of being jolly under trying circumstances, since according to him there was no particular credit in being jolly when things were going well.
Innes, the vicar of Down, had left Down in 1862, but since he retained the advowson (the right to appoint to the living), had the responsibility of appointing curates to fulfil his duties. Two of the curates he appointed, Samuel James O’Hara Horsman and John Warburton Robinson, had allegedly behaved badly while in office (see Correspondence vol. 16). Innes had offered to sell the advowson to CD or to John Lubbock (Correspondence vol. 16, letter from J. B. Innes, 13 June 1868). At the time of his departure in early 1862, the archbishop of Canterbury was John Bird Sumner. See also J. R. Moore 1985.
Paris, which was under seige by the Prussians, surrendered on 28 January 1871.
Innes refers to Horsman. See letter to J. B. Innes, 13 January 1871.
CD’s solicitor was William Mackmurdo Hacon. Innes’s ‘form’ has not been found.
A major obstacle to attracting a suitable (and married) clergyman to Down was the lack of a vicarage. See Correspondence vol. 16 for Innes’s correspondence with CD about his attempts to buy land to build on, and the parishioners’ resistance to church restoration.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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).


JBI regrets his part in appointments of his successors.

His friendship with CD and its effect on his fellow clerics.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Brodie Innes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Milton Brodie
Source of text
DAR 167: 28
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7449,” accessed on 21 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19