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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. N. Ridley   28 November 1878

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway station | Orpington. S. E. R.

Nov 28 78

Dear Sir,

I just skimmed through Dr Pusey’s sermon as published in the Guardian, but it did not seem to me worthy of any attention.1 As I have never answered criticisms excepting those made by scientific men I am not willing that this letter should be published; but I have no objection to your saying that you sent me the three questions, & that I answered that Dr Pusey was mistaken in imagining that I wrote the Origin with any relation whatever to Theology. I should have thought that this would have been evident to anyone who has taken the trouble to read the book, more especially as in the opening lines of the Introduction I specify how the subject arose in my mind. This answer disposes of your two other questions; but I may add that many years ago when I was collecting facts for the Origin, my belief in what is called a personal God was as firm as that of Dr Pusey himself, & as to the eternity of matter I have never troubled myself about such insoluble questions.—2

Dr Pusey’s attack will be as powerless to retard by a day a belief in evolution as were the virulent attacks made by divines fifty years ago against Geology, & the still older ones of the Catholic church against Galileo, for the public is wise enough always to follow scientific men when they agree on any subject; & now there is almost complete unanimity amongst Biologists about Evolution, tho’ there is still considerable difference as to the means, such as how far natural selection has acted & how far external conditions, or whether there exists some mysterious innate tendency to perfectibility

I remain dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Charles Darwin


See letter from H. N. Ridley, [before 28 November 1878], and n. 2. The text of a sermon by Edward Bouverie Pusey was published in the London Guardian, 20 November 1878, pp. 1161–12. CD received a copy from John Brodie Innes (see letter to J. B. Innes, 27 November [1878]). It was separately published as Un-science, not science, adverse to faith (Pusey 1878) with extensive notes denouncing Darwinism.
See letter from H. N. Ridley, [before 28 November 1878]. Ridley quoted the text of CD’s reply from ‘that Dr Pusey was mistaken’ to ‘two other questions’ in a letter to the Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduate’s Journal, 5 December 1878, p. 144.


Pusey, Edward Bouverie. 1878. Un-science, not science, adverse to faith: a sermon preached before the University of Oxford on the twentieth Sunday after Trinity, 1878. Oxford: Devonport Society of the Holy Trinity.


Does not think sermon by E. B. Pusey [see 11763] is worth a reply. HNR may quote CD as saying that Pusey is "mistaken in imagining that I wrote the Origin with any relation whatever to Theology". Pusey’s attack will be powerless to retard belief in evolution.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Nicholas Ridley
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Letters to H. N. Ridley CLE–GUR, 1878–1951, HNR/2/1/2: f. 42)
Physical description
4pp & AdraftS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11766,” accessed on 25 February 2021,