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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   30 September [1871]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Sept. 30th

My dear Huxley

It was very good of you to send the proof-sheets, for I was very anxious to read your article.2 I have been delighted with it. How you do smash Mivart’s theology; it is almost equal to your article versus Comte,—that never can be transcended.3 Mivart under his mild & pleasing & modest manners must have a good stock of self-sufficiency, not to say arrogance.— Nothing will vex him so much as this part of your review.— But I have been preeminently glad to read your discussion on his metaphysics, especially about reason & his definition of it.4 I felt sure he was wrong, but having only common observation & sense to trust to, I did not know what to say in any 2d Edit. of my Descent. Now a footnote & reference to you will do the work.—5

Good Heavens what a mess he has made of it. For me, this is one of most important parts of the Review. But for pleasure, I have been particularly glad that my few words on the distinction, if it can be so called, between Mivart’s two forms of morality, caught your attention. I am so pleased that you take the same view, & give authorities for it; but I searched Mill in vain on this head. How well you argue the whole case.6

I am mounting climax on climax; for after all there is nothing, I think, better in your whole review than your argument v. Wallace on intellect of savages.7 I must tell you what Hooker8 said to me a few years ago—“when I read Huxley, I feel quite infantile in, intellect.” By Jove I have felt the truth of this throughout your Review.— What a man you are.— There are scores of splendid passages, & vivid flashes of wit.—

I have been a good deal more than merely pleased by the concluding part of your Review, & all the more, as I own I felt mortified by Mivarts accusation of bigotry, arrogance &c. in the Q. Review, as he had expressed friendship, & as I liked him.9 But I assure you, he may write his worst, & he will never mortify me again—

My dear Huxley | Yours gratefully | Ch. Darwin

P.S. Since the above was written I have received your long & interesting letter. You are very good.—10

I daresay it is quite wise in Editor to delay publication; but I am naturally a little sorry.—11 I will forward sheets to Hooker at once; but I think I have right to have them back again—12

What you say about Mivart writing differently when anonymous & with his name is true.— In the Month, which preceded his Genesis, he used coarse abuse about Pangenesis & called it grossly atheistical—the most atheistical production which he had ever read, or something to that effect.—13 In Scientific Opinion the Editor inserted foot-note to the effect that it must not be supposed that the writer of the article in the Month, wished to depriciate me,—a good instance of he who excuses himself assures himself.14

Farewell— I am tired— Most hearty thanks.—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from T. H. Huxley, 28 September 1871.
Huxley had sent CD the proof-sheets of an article in Contemporary Review (T. H. Huxley 1871b; see letter from T. H. Huxley, 28 September 1871 and n. 1).
In T. H. Huxley 1871b, Huxley attacked St George Jackson Mivart’s On the genesis of species (Mivart 1871a). He reviewed Auguste Comte in ‘The scientific aspects of positivism’ (T. H. Huxley 1869b); see Correspondence vol. 17, letter to T. H. Huxley, 9 July [1869], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 July [1869].
In T. H. Huxley 1871b, pp. 460–7, Huxley criticised the definition of reason given in [Mivart] 1871c, p. 67: ‘That in which we reflect upon our sensations or perceptions, and ask what they are and why they are’.
CD referred to T. H. Huxley 1871b, p. 462, in Descent 2d ed., p. 77.
CD refers to John Stuart Mill. In Mivart 1871a, pp. 195–6, Mivart accused CD of causing confusion between formal and material morality. Huxley countered this criticism in T. H. Huxley 1871b, pp. 467–70, by referring to CD’s discussion of the distinction in Descent 1: 87–9.
Huxley discussed Alfred Russel Wallace’s belief that the development of humans was influenced by a higher power in T. H. Huxley 1871b, pp. 470–3, pointing out ways in which it would be possible for the intellectual powers of ‘savages’ to be influenced by their natural surroundings.
Joseph Dalton Hooker.
The final paragraphs of T. H. Huxley 1871b counter Mivart’s criticisms of CD’s arrogance in contrast with Wallace’s reticence ([Mivart] 1871c, p. 49).
CD refers to James Thomas Knowles; see letter from T. H. Huxley, 28 September 1871 and n. 4.
An article by Mivart, harshly critical of the theological implications of natural selection, was published in the Roman Catholic journal the Month in July 1869 ([Mivart] 1869).
The editor of Scientific Opinion was Henry Lawson. The footnote has not been found.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

[Mivart, St George Jackson.] 1869. Difficulties of the theory of natural selection. Month 11: 35–53, 134–53, 274–89.


On THH’s review [see 7977] of Mivart’s Genesis of species and the Quarterly Review article on Descent.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 283)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7976,” accessed on 15 August 2020,

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