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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. H. Martin   19 January 1874

51, 53 & 55. West Port | Dundee

19 Jany 1874

Charles Darwin Esq FRS

Dear Sir

In the course of 10 days we are to have a paper read (in connection with a literary society of wh I am a member) on “Darwinism & its relation to Theological Thought”1 There will likely be a debate afterwards & to have a clear apprehension of the subject I lack some knowledge, knowledge that I cannot find in Encyclopedias nor any other source, so I have thought of applying to the fountain head— I acknowledge I might have bought your works & studied them—but my dear sir I am a young man up to the neck among business2 & therefore have not time, for what little time I have I am devoting to other studies meantime

I know that your great idea is natural selection but do you hold & teach in your works that man is evolved out of an inferior species— that one species changing into another thro endless ages at last man comes on the scene as a developement superior but produced from all that has gone before. Do you hold that in contradistinction to the narrative given in Genesis that God created man by the word of his power & that from the dust of the Earth.3

I hope you will do me the favor of replying to these queries— perhaps the natural impetuosity of youth may account to you for my boldness in thus addressing you

I have the honor | to remain | Yrs very truly | J. H Martin

I may mention that it is a reverend gentleman who is to read the paper referred to—4


A notice of a meeting of the Chapelshade Free Church Literary Society mentioned an address to be given by the society’s president, the reverend George Laing, on ‘Darwinism in its bearing on theological thought’ (Dundee Courier & Argus, 12 February 1874, p. 1). The society’s meetings were held weekly in the Session House of the church (Dundee directory 1871–2, p. 28).
James H. Martin is listed in the Dundee directory 1873–4 as ironmonger, tinsmith, and gas-fitter at 51, 53, and 55 West Port, and 6 Blinshall Street.
Martin refers to the biblical account of human creation in Genesis 2: 7.
See n. 1, above.


Dundee directory: The Dundee directory. Dundee: Colville & Son [and others]. 1809–1912.


JHM, who has not read CD’s works, must conduct a discussion on Darwinism and theology at a local literary society. He asks CD to define briefly his position on the origin of man and on descent.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Hales Martin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 171: 53
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9249,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22