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Darwin Correspondence Project

From D. Thomas   [after 11 March 1871]1


Will you permit me to address to you a few lines upon your elaborately evolved theory of man’s descent or ascent (I should rather name it) from the lower creation, in the far backism of time from nothing; in the comparatively recent & intermediate period from the lower animals & most recently from the Ape species. Now Sir you acknowledge that there is at first thought something very repulsive & shocking to our reason, & if there is a worthy & sufficient explanation of the origin of distinct species, (for your theory applies very well to branches of the same family or species, but not to distinct species) in the grand old book, for in it we read that God made every beast of the field & every fowl of the air out of the ground & then gave them a commandment to multiply, that is, as I understand it, that He in human form Himself took some earth & fashioned it into the forms of animals He wished to make, that is every kind of animals & breathed into their nostrils the breath of life & afterwards the various kinds have been continued through generation, from matter commonly & scientifically called seed; now I presume the seed of all animals is so very much alike, that we may very properly conclude that One Divine Originator has made it, but you know very well what confusion would arise if the seed of the different species was allowed to be mingled together & so we find that distinct cross breeds do not multiply.

What is true with the lower animals must surely be true in the case of man & in the first chapter of the bible we have an ennobling account of the origin of our race.2 But your theory is apparently that the seed of an ape formed the first man. now Sir do not be offended if I just tell you what struck me when I saw your likeness in the Illustrated News on Saturday3 & not myself only but others with whom I have spoken, the striking resemblance there is to an ape the thick skull, deep set eyes & hairy face all remind one of a fine venerable old Ape & how striking that the person who is most bent upon linking the monkey race to us should so much resemble one in outward form.

Yours respy | D Thomas



The date is established by the reference to a published picture of CD (see n. 3, below).
The reference is to Genesis 2: 7–25.
An engraving of CD appeared in Illustrated London News, Saturday 11 March 1871, p. 244. CD’s copy of the picture is in DAR 141: 4. See plate on p. 168.


CD is "bent upon linking the monkey race to us"; DT finds it striking that CD should so resemble an ape.

Letter details

Letter no.
D. Thomas
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 108
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13849,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

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