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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Gerard Krefft   [after 12 July 1873]1

you are; only when I do receive one, I feel very proud of it— The ignorance of even well educated people is dreadful out here   the Bishop of Melbourne and Professor MCoy of Melbourne have a “go in” now and then at the “Darwinian theories” so I have taken the liberty to give them my version that is explaining some of your ideas in a popular manner.—2 Of course I shall not deny the existence of a supreme superintendent or whatever people choose to call the power of nature as yet unknown to us otherwise rather religious papers will not like to print my remarks   I am astonished myself that they do it, & it evidently goes down with some more enlightened people, because they sent a priest over here from Melbourne to lecture on “Noahs Arck” who proved to the satisfaction of a crowded audience, one of our Supreme Court Judges (Faucett Rom. Cath.) in the Chair, that the flood was “limited” & that all the animals did get accomodated   I never meddle with religion otherwise I would have asked the priest what about the extinct Animals and where did Noah keep the Venomous Snakes.–3

If I cut a joke or two about “protoplasm”, “simple cells” or “jelly fish” I do so to make people read my remarks; many of the Churchmen dont see the sarcasm and will compliment me on the “happy style” of putting it; but I fear it will be bitter earnest some of these days and in this case, it may make some of those, who overflow with riches a little more honest and charitable.—

I did not mention your name in my first paper it was only a feeler & the believers in “a happy life hereafter” do not like you; but you will see that I give you full credit for your kindness of heart in paper No 2 & now that the ice is broken I shall begin to make your works known and show them who enlightened us.—4

When people begin to argue with me about monkeys &c I always tell them that you never said a word about man being derived from monkeys that there was no evidence as yet and that I could not continue to converse with them if they refused to read your works; when they have dipped into the origin of species or the “emotions” they are more pliable and I generally polish them off saying that I expect to go where my most intelligent donkey my cats and dogs go to, which sets them thinking a good deal.—

I got a splendid youthful Chimpanzee-skeleton which is greatly admired by Visitors as the skeleton of a “poor baby” & several foeti in bottles, near it, (dogs Lemurs, monkeys &c) who are mysteriously ogled at, by any number of women.— All these people believe they are human objects in an early stage of developement   Our old Museum is built, or rather fitted in a queer way, the cases open at the back which is only canvass & causes dreadful trouble to keep the insects down   the light is “top or sky light”.5 Now if you stand in the dark gangway with holes in the canvass you can fix your eye upon Visitors without being seen of course, and there is nothing so instructive than to watch a number of women young or old contemplating a human foetus.— You cannot hear what they say, but you can almost guess; and how they edge near to this interesting case peeping their eyes about so that the male visitors shall not detect their very natural Curiosity, is truly wonderful.— I left the collection of “human foeti” exposed, till I heard one day a little six or seven year old girl, with a baby in her arms, call to some companions “come on Jeany and see the babies in the bottle”.— Since then the case has lost its attractions as I removed the objects though thousands of women still look at the early stage of dogs & cats with a puzzled air. I hope you will pardon this digression but as a place to study human nature there is nothing like show cases with “Canvass-backs” This is the way the place is arranged.—


I need not tell you that I do not approve of the arrangement & that I prefer free standing cases because the dark passage behind is the very hothouse for all kinds of insects & the canvass no protection whatever— I notice Mr Sclater’s similar proposition for a museum but it is a great mistake.—6 Again I beg your pardon for troubling you so much & I enclose Photo of a fossil human molar found by me at Wellington (much enlarged) in a block of breccia with Diprotodon & thylacoleo teeth later7 remaining always at your service

dear Sir | your most devoted | Gerard Krefft

P.S. | At the last moment the Editor sent word that the owner of the paper objected to my remarks regarding your works which I advised people to read & test before they judged you; about a Column of my own observations were cut out—8 Still there is hope that people will learn something from what is left— | GK


The date is established by the date of the enclosed articles from the Sydney Mail (see n. 4, below).
The bishop of Melbourne was Charles Perry. Frederick McCoy was professor of natural science at the University of Melbourne.
Peter Faucett was judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The priest from Melbourne was Father Joseph O’Malley; his book, Noah’s Ark vindicated and explained: a reply to Dr. Colenso’s difficulties (O’Malley 1871), described how all the animals were fitted into the ark in 2160 stalls. Krefft lived in Sydney.
Krefft enclosed two articles from the Sydney Mail; these have not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL. The first article discussed artificial selection and human evolution; the second referred to CD’s theories as among the most important scientific achievements of the past twenty-five years (Sydney Mail, 5 July 1873, p. 20, and 12 July 1873, p. 46).
Krefft was assistant curator at the Australian Museum in Sydney (Aust. dict. biog.).
Philip Lutley Sclater’s article, ‘On certain principles to be observed in the establishment of a national museum of natural history’, appeared in Nature, 6 October 1870, pp. 455–8.
The photograph has not been found. Diprotodon, a giant fossil wombat, is the largest known marsupial ever to have lived. Thylacoleo (the pouch lion) is an extinct carnivorous marsupial. Krefft reported the find in a footnote to his article ‘Remarks on new hypothesis’, Sydney Mail, 12 July 1873, p. 46. See also Correspondence vol. 20, letter from Gerard Krefft, 15 May 1872.
See n. 4, above.


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

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

O’Malley, Joseph. 1871. Noah’s Ark vindicated and explained: a reply to Dr Colenso’s difficulties. Melbourne: Thomas Verga.


JLGK’s public advocacy of Darwinism brings him into numerous arguments.

Letter details

Letter no.
Johann Louis Gerard (Gerard) Krefft
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 114
Physical description
10pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8959,” accessed on 25 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21