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Darwin Correspondence Project

From F. E. Abbot   1 November 1871

Office of The Index, | Toledo, O.,

Nov. 1, 1871.

Dear Sir,

The passage I especially desired permission to quote from your first note was this:—“I have now read your ‘Truths for the Times,’ and I admire them from my inmost heart; and I believe that I agree to every word.”1

The reason why I wish to print this (if you are perfectly willing) is, not to feed any vanity of my own, though I confess such a commendation from such a man did make me proud indeed, but to help forward a movement to which I have given my whole heart and strength. I want to show that pure and true religion is able to take science by the hand as a sister—that the highest and divinest living is compatible with the freest and boldest thinking—that while religion should shape our characters, science must shape our creeds. In my very soul I feel that this age needs to learn this lesson; and because I am a young man (35 years of age), whose uncompromising rejection of the Christian creed and name has exposed him to much obloquy, I desire to make my paper win influence with the world by showing that the opinions I have spoken out are really held substantially by the ablest and best men of our times. The moral weight of such a name as yours is vast in this country; and, if thrown upon the side of free religion, will help immensely in the work I am trying to do. I know you cannot without some sacrifice give your name to me in this way; but I cannot read your works without believing inwardly that you are not a man to shrink from this or any other sacrifice in the cause of truth. You have a perfect right to be cautious in the matter; but having now read many numbers of the Index, you are enabled to judge of its character.2 I think you will see that the movement I am in has men of the highest culture and education and character for its advocates here, and that no disgrace, save that of heterodoxy, can ensue from association with them. So I am emboldened by your most generous letters to ask you frankly if you will help me in my work for a cause that fills me with hope for the future of man. The spirit of your own great theory, suggesting as it does a constant amelioration of humanity, is also the spirit of my religion; and I am willing to live and die by it. You will pardon a young man’s enthusiasm, I know, for the sympathy you have already expressed shows me that I have not misread Mr. Darwin himself while admiring his works.

With these wishes and hopes, I venture to enclose you a check for fifty dollars (I do not know yet how much that will be in English money), and to ask you if I may be authorized to announce your name next New Year as one of my regular contributors. The same sum shall be sent to you quarterly, in advance. The amount is small, but I do not expect much labor in return. If you could now and then send me a little letter for publication, say eight or ten times in the course of the year, I shall be abundantly satisfied; and I shall not at all complain if you cannot do it oftener than four or five times. And as to subjects, I leave that entirely to you. Something in connection with your own application of your theory to man’s moral nature, would be very acceptable, even if you did no more than to vary the statement a little of what you have already said in your other works. I have no wish that you should state conclusions, unless you have formed them; but I shall be very glad if you will state the questions raised by your theory regarding a spiritual God and the future existence of man. You have succeeded in making men think as never before on these great topics; and there is a deep desire to know something more of your views, even if these views rather assume the form of interrogations than of affirmations. Our hearts are all hungry for the truth, and we want to get all the light we can; and I am sure the noblest spirits of our times are precisely those who most sympathize with the drift of your speculations. The moral beauty of your writings, their wonderful candor and honesty and fairness, has warmed many a young American heart towards you, even independently of your thought; and you must blame yourself if it has made me break over the due limits of the respect we owe you. If I have taken too great a liberty in forwarding you a check in this manner, pray forgive me; I only wanted to assure you beforehand that you were dealing with an honorable man—which of course you could not otherwise know. In case I have asked too much, you can return the check; and I will smother my disappointment in my gratitude for the friendly words you have already written me.

Believe me, it is with great pride and pleasure that I am permitted to sign myself | Your young friend | F. E. Abbot.

P.S. An early reply will greatly oblige.


Abbot had asked to quote from CD’s letters of 27 May [1871] and 6 June [1871] (see letter from F. E. Abbot, 20 August 1871). CD had praised Abbot’s essay, ‘Truths for the times’ (Abbot [1870]), in his letter to F. E. Abbot of 27 May [1871], but he had expressed reservations about having his private statements quoted (see letter to F. E. Abbot, 6 September [1871]).
CD had paid for about a year’s subscription to Abbot’s journal, the Index (see letter to F. E. Abbot, 6 June [1871]), and had received a volume containing the issues for 1870 (letter to F. E. Abbot, 6 September [1871]).


Abbot, Francis Ellingwood. [1870.] Truths for the times. Mount Pleasant, Ramsgate: Thomas Scott.


For CD’s approval, cites passage from CD note he wants to quote in a lecture;

pleads for CD’s moral support for FEA’s work in free-thought movement.

Sends $50 [dollars or pounds!?] because he wants CD to become regular contributor to Index.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Ellingwood Abbot
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Index , Toledo, Ohio
Source of text
DAR 159: 3
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8043,” accessed on 3 March 2021,

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