skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Kingsley   31 January 1862

Eversley Rectory, | Winchfield.

My dear Mr. Darwin


I have just returned from Lord Ashburton’s, where the Duke of Argyle, the Bp of Oxford, & I, have naturally talked much about you & your book.1 As for the Bp. you know what he thinks—& more important, you know what he knows.2 The Duke is a very difft. mood; calm, liberal, & ready to hear all reason; though puzzled as every one must be, by a hundred new questions wh. you have opened.3

What struck us on you & your theory, was, the shooting in the park of a pair of “blue Rocks”,4 wh. I was called to decide on. There were several Men there who knew blue Rocks. The Duke said that the specimen was difft from the Blue Rock of the Hebrides— Young Baring5 that it was difft from the B. R. of Gibraltar, & of his Norfolk Rabbit warrens (wh. I don’t believe from the specimens I have seen, to be a B. R. at all, but a stunted Stock dove, wh. breeds in rabbit holes.), & I could hardly swear that this was a B. R. (as the keeper held) till I saw, but very weakly developed, the black bars on the wing coverts.

Do you care engh about the matter to have a specimen of the bird? He comes in 2 & 3s. (from the Isle of Wight, I suppose) to the heart of S. Hants, & feeds on dry berries—

My own view is—& I coolly stated it, fearless of consequences—that the specimen before me was only to be explained on your theory, & that Cushat, Stock doves & Blue Rock, had been once all one species—& I found—to shew how your views are steadily spreading—that of 5 or 6 men, only one regarded such a notion as absurd. If you want a specimen, I can get you one at once.

I want now to bore you on another matter. This great gulf between the quadrumana & man; & the absence of any record of species intermediate between man & the ape. It has come home to me with much force, that while we deny the existence of any such, the legends of most nations are full of them. Fauns, Satyrs, Inui, Elves, Dwarfs—we call them one minute mythological personages, the next conquered inferior races—& ignore the broad fact, that they are always represented as more bestial than man, & of violent sexual passion.

The mythology of every white race, as far as I know, contains these creatures, & I (who believe that every myth has an original nucleus of truth) think the fact very important.

The Inuus of the old Latins is obscure: but his name is from inire—sexual violence

The Faun of the Latins (or Romans, I dont know wh.) has a monkey face, & hairy hind legs & body— the hind feet are traditionally those of a goat, the goat being the type of lust.

The Satyr of the Greeks is completely human, save an ape-face & a short tail—

The Elves Fairies & Dwarfs puzzle me, the 2 first being represented, originally, as of great beauty, the Elves dark, & the Fairies fair; & the Dwarfs as cunning magicians, & workers in metal— They may be really conquered aborigines.

The Hounuman, monkey God of India, & his monkey armies, who take part with the Brahminæ invaders, are now supposed to be a slave negro race, who joined the new Conquerors against their old masters. To me they point to some similar semi-human race. That such creatures shd. have become divine, when they became rare, & a fetish worship paid to them—as happened in all the cases I have mentioned, is consonant with history—& is perhaps the only explanation of fetish-worship. The fear of a terrible, brutal, & mysterious creature, still lingering in the forests.

That they should have died out, by simple natural selection, before the superior white race, you & I can easily understand.

That no sculls, &c. of them have been found, is a question wh. may bother us when the recent deposits of Italy & Greece have been as well searched as those of England. Till then, it concerns no man.

I hope that you will not think me dreaming— To me, it seems strange that we are to deny that any Creatures intermediate between man & the ape ever existed, while our forefathers of every race, assure us that they did— As for having no historic evidence of them—How can you have historic evidence in pre-historic times? Our race was strong enough to kill them out while it was yet savage— We are not niggers, who can coexist till the 19th. century with gorillas a few miles off. I do not say that this notion is true, as a fact: but I do say that it has to be looked to, & weighed patiently quantum valeat.6

At least, believe me | Ever, differing now, & now agreeing— | Yours most faithfully | C Kingsley


January 31/62


Charles Kingsley refers to William Bingham Baring, Lord Ashburton, George Douglas Campbell, duke of Argyll, and Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford. Baring’s principal seat was The Grange, Alresford, Hampshire (Burke’s peerage 1862).
Wilberforce reviewed Origin anonymously in the Quarterly Review ([Wilberforce] 1860). CD thought the review ‘uncommonly clever’ but ‘not worth anything scientifically’ (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Asa Gray, 22 July [1860]). More famously, Wilberforce had been fiercely critical of the Origin during a debate at the British Association meeting at Oxford in 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8).
The duke of Argyll had discussed Origin in his presidential address, delivered before the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 3 December 1860 (G. D. Campbell 1860, pp. 371–6). He praised CD’s ‘most curious and original’ observations, and his capacity for ‘arranging and co-ordinating physical phenomena’ (ibid., p. 376), but raised a number of objections to what he described as ‘essentially another form of the old theory of development’ (ibid., p. 375). CD had been impressed with the liberal tone of the duke’s discussion, but did not value his arguments (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to T. H. Huxley, 1 April [1861]).
The duke of Argyll had argued in his presidential address that CD’s work on the artificial selection of pigeons only served to illustrate the action of ‘a restraining law of reversion to type’ (G. D. Campbell 1860, p. 373). He had earlier told Charles Lyell: ‘As regards the effects of breeding, I think the facts he gives in respect to pigeons tell more against than for his theory’ (I. E. Campbell ed. 1906, 2: 482).
W. B. Baring had no surviving sons, but the reference may be to his nephew, Alexander Hugh Baring, who was a member of parliament for Thetford, Norfolk. Alexander Baring’s father, Francis, lived at Buckenham Hall, near Brandon, Norfolk, which stood in extensive parkland (Post Office directory of Cambridge, Norfolk, and Suffolk 1858).
Kingsley wrote a letter to CD on 23 March 1862 expressing more of his notions about the human species; he described what he thought to be the physical imperfections of the human body. However, Kingsley did not send the letter until 1867 (see the enclosure to the letter from Charles Kingsley, 1 November 1867 (Calendar nos. 3482 and 5664)).


Burke’s peerage: A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the United Kingdom. Burke’s peerage and baronetage. 1st– edition. London: Henry Colburn [and others]. 1826–.

Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Campbell, George Douglas. 1860. Opening address, 1860–1 session. [Read 3 December 1860.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 4 (1857–62): 350–77.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Post Office directory of Cambridge, Norfolk, and Suffolk: Post Office directory of Cambridge, Norfolk, and Suffolk. Kelly’s directory of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. London: W. Kelly; Kelly & Co. 1853–1900.

[Wilberforce, Samuel.] 1860. [Review of Origin.] Quarterly Review 108: 225–64.


CK defended CD’s theory at a shooting party with the Bishop of Oxford, the Duke of Argyll, and Lord Ashburton. The discussion started as a result of shooting some blue rock-pigeons which were different from blue rocks of other localities. CK held that all pigeons were descended from one species.

CK proposed that mythological races, e.g., elves and dwarfs, were intermediate species between man and apes, and have become extinct by natural selection; i.e., by competition with a superior white race of man.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Kingsley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169.1: 29
Physical description
ALS 13pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3426,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10