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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Frances Power Cobbe   23 March [1870?]1

Down Beckenham | Kent.

Mar 23.

My dear Miss Cobbe

It was very good of you to send me nolens volens Kant, together with the other book.2 I have been extremely glad to look through the former. It has interested me much to see how differently two men may look at the same points, though I fully feel how presumptuous it sounds to put myself even for a moment in the same bracket with Kant;—the one man a great philosopher looking exclusively into his own mind, the other a degraded wretch looking from the outside thro’ apes & savages at the moral sense of mankind.

I have glanced thro’ the cut pages of Despine, but he appears to me far from being an original & vigorous thinker, but many of his facts about criminals seem very curious.

The book shall be sent to London by our carrier tonight, & thence to you by Parcels Del. Co.3

With sincere thanks | pray believe me | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is conjectured from the fact that CD met Cobbe in Wales in July 1869 (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 July [1869], and Cobbe 1904, pp. 485–7). According to Cobbe, she had met CD before that visit, but her description of the sequence of events suggests that this letter was written in 1870.
Cobbe may have sent CD Immanuel Kant’s Metaphysics of ethics (Kant 1836). Cobbe had recommended the book to him and offered to lend him a translation in Wales in July 1869; he had declined it, but she sent it anyway (Cobbe 1904, p. 487). CD cited this work in Descent 1: 70–1 and n. 3. The ‘other book’ was probably Prosper Despine’s Psychologie naturelle (Despine 1868). CD mentioned this book in Descent 1: 92 n. 22.
In 1870, 23 March was a Wednesday; the carrier service to London left Down at 2 a.m. on Thursday (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1870). CD also refers to the London Parcels Delivery Company.


Cobbe, Frances Power. 1904. Life of Frances Power Cobbe as told by herself. Posthumous edition. London: Swan Sonnenschein.

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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Despine, Prosper. 1868. Psychologie naturelle: étude sur les facultés intellectuelles et morales dans leur état normal et dans leur manifestations anomales chez les aliénés et chez les criminels. Paris: F. Savy.

Kant, Immanuel. 1836. Metaphysics of ethics. Translated by J. W. Semple. Edinburgh: T. Clark.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.


Has read and enjoyed the Kant that FPC sent.

Returns P. C. Despine [?Psychologie naturelle (1868)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Frances Power Cobbe
Sent from
Source of text
The Huntington Library (CB 385)
Physical description
LS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7145,” accessed on 12 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18