skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Herbert Spencer   12 June 1872

37 Queen’s Gardens, | Bayswater, W.

12 June 1872.

Dear Darwin,

Though you interdict a rejoinder to your letter, yet as you have been at the trouble of writing to express your satisfaction with the articles you name, I cannot consent to let your letter pass without saying how much gratified I am by your approval.1 I should very well have liked, had time permitted, to deal somewhat more fully with the metaphysical part of Mr. Martineau’s argument. If, as I expect him to do, he makes some reply, it will probably furnish the occasion, after an interval, for a fuller exposition; by which I hope to make clear to quite ordinary apprehensions, the absolute emptiness of all such propositions as that with which Mr. Martineau deludes himself & his readers.

I am glad to hear you have got through your book on “Expression”, & that (as I gathered from Mr. Tylor at the Athenæum the other day) you are in good condition notwithstanding your work.2

My own lucubrations on the same topic are also finished, & will appear in the forthcoming number of the Psychology, which you will probably find waiting for you when you get back to Down.3

very sincerely yours | Herbert Spencer


See letter to Herbert Spencer, 10 June [1872]. CD had written praising Spencer’s rejoinder to an article in which James Martineau criticised the theory of natural selection and argued for the existence of a divine creator (J. Martineau 1871; Spencer 1872).
The manuscript of Expression was sent to the printers at the beginning of June (see letter to Herbert Spencer, 10 June 1872 and n. 4). Edward Burnett Tylor became a member of the Athenaeum Club in 1872 (Waugh [1888], p. 139); he visited Down on 6 June 1872 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
The second edition of The principles of psychology was published in parts between 1870 and 1872, with the penultimate part, including a section on ‘Language of the emotions’, issued in June 1872 (Spencer 1870–2, 1: v–vi, and 2: 539–57); CD’s annotated copy of Spencer 1870–2 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 773).


Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Martineau, James. 1871. The place of mind in nature and intuition in man. Contemporary Review 19: 606–23.

Spencer, Herbert. 1870–2. The principles of psychology. 2d edition. 2 vols. London and Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate.

Spencer, Herbert. 1872. Mr. Martineau on evolution. Contemporary Review 20: 141–54.

Waugh, Francis Gledstanes. [1888.] Members of the Athenæum Club, 1824 to 1887. N.p.: privately printed.


HS hopes in the future to show more fully "absolute emptiness" of James Martineau’s propositions; is glad CD approved of his article dealing with JM’s arguments. [J. Martineau, "The place of mind in nature", Contemp. Rev. 19 (1872): 606–23; H. Spencer, "Mr Martineau on evolution", Contemp. Rev. 20 (1872): 141–54.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Herbert Spencer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 230
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8384,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20