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Darwin Correspondence Project

From S. S. Hennell   7 November 1871

3 Baron’s Hill Terrace, Coventry

Nov. 7. 1871

My dear Sir,

Pray do not anathematize me in your heart (—I mean, consistently with the purest benevolence, in mere aversion of the flesh,—) if I send you yet this latest outcome of my ponderings—Comparative Metaphysics II, wh. however is much more practical in its tendency than metaphysical.1

If you knew how I have longed to be suffered to state to you, in few words of plain speech, the result wh. I have come to!— But tho’ I am hoping soon to be again with my kind friends at Ravensbourne,2 I fear this is more than I ought to petition for. And theref⁠⟨⁠ore⁠⟩⁠ merely send what I know ⁠⟨⁠wou⁠⟩⁠ld probably be as heretofore a dumb messenger.— May I however ask that you will show it to Sir John Lubbock?

Let me say just this. The whole purport of Religious Forms of Thought I have come to see as concerned, from the beginning, with solely the Domestic Relations affecting us; wh, as such, are altogether included under the import of the ⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠re grand mystery in Nature, w. is that of Marriage:— ⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠dful to be recognized by ⁠⟨⁠hum⁠⟩⁠an beings as the true point ⁠⟨⁠of⁠⟩⁠ the Origin of Life, alone ⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠fully to be speculated about. It is this, I conceive, wh. alone gives real meaning to both Religious Symbols, & Philosophic theories.— But also, this same result is no other than a subjective equivalent to precisely your own finding, that Sex is above all things the important agency in universal development.

Such a flood of suggestio⁠⟨⁠ns⁠⟩⁠ has in fact poured out upon me on this subject, wh certainly are the result of my own think⁠⟨⁠ing⁠⟩⁠ tho’ I cannot get myself ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ to, that I seem almost for⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠ out of a woman’s natural shrinking.—

I do not ask for any answer. I am sure of yr. kind interpretation of this impulsiveness, & am grateful for it in advance—

Believe me, my dear Sir | Yours most respectfully | Sara S. Hennell

Charles Darwin Esq


Comparative metaphysics was the second part of a three-volume work entitled Present religion as a faith owning fellowship with thought (Hennell 1865–[87]). Hennell’s work is mentioned in the letter from George Cupples, 22 April 1871.
Ravensbourne was the house of Joanna Maria Bonham-Carter, in Keston, Kent.


Marriage is basis of all religious forms of thought, and this is the subjective equivalent of CD’s law that sex is the most important agency of universal development.

Letter details

Letter no.
Sara Sophia Hennell
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 143
Physical description
ALS 4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8055,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

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