skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From St G. J. Mivart   24 January 1871

7, North Bank, | N.W.

Janry. 24th 1871.

My dear Sir,

I thank you for your two letters dated Janry 23d—especially for No. 2.1

I was sorry to find that you thought I had not criticised you fairly but I am sure you will do me the justice to believe that I wished to be fair

Over and above my being “bound over”, as it were, to be just by your past kindness to me2—I beg you to believe that I am confident the cause of “right” could never gain by any, however unintentional, acts of injustice or unkindness.

I am much obliged to you for calling my attention to certain points and if my little book should ever reach a second edition it will of course be my duty (and considering the sentiments I entertain for you also my pleasure) to make modifications accordingly.

I shall certainly withdraw the expression “change of front”—replace “mimic” by “mock” (a quite accidental error) and also—if you like—remove the word “dogmatic” or introduce an explanatory, modifying sentence.3

I have also, in all probability, unconsciously represented you as more attached to the predominance of action of natural selection than is really the case since you say it is “infinitely more important” that I should “hold fast to the general principle of Evolution” than to it.4 I will, with pleasure, add a note to say so but my book will not, I conceive, be less usefully directed against that view as I know others do hold it—being in this respect “plus royalist que le Roi”—5 As to the fibres of Corti, I do not care a straw—as some structure must minister to that refined audition & if not yet discovered will probably be so later.6

I must now beg you to believe that what I said in my last letter was not dictated by mere politeness but very seriously meant7 My distinction between “material” & “formal” will explain how while execrating certain views & acts I may yet very properly entertain the tenderest feelings towards persons holding the one or performing the other— If my medical man with the greatest pains, sympathy & trouble treats me wrongly & permanently injures me, am I not to be sensible of his pains & kindness because through some circumstance of education or what not—the result of his well meant labour is unfortunate?

I wish much that I had the priviledge of more frequent conversations with you and I repeat I hope you will give me the opportunity when you can.

Unhappily the acceptance of your views means with many the abandonment of belief in God and in the immortality of the soul together with future rewards & punishments. No words of mine could represent an appreciable fraction of what I think as to the importance of such an abandonment—yet I am far from blaming you personally for (knowing you as I do) I am persuaded you only seek the promotion of truth though I regret you do not more protect against these unnecessary irreligious deductions.

Apart, however, from considerations as to eternity, I think that the destruction of such beliefs is most important—viewed from the comparatively trivial stand-point of the temporal happiness of mankind. I have just finished reading Von Sybel’s history of the french revolution. God grant we in England may not be approaching a religious decay at all similar to that of the middle of the 18th century in France which Frenchmen are now paying for in blood & tears!8

With kindest regards believe me | My dear Sir | Always your’s very sincerely | St Geo. Mivart.

Ch. Darwin Esq F.R.S.


Mivart refers to the letter to him of 23 January [1871]; the first letter has not been found but for a draft, see the letter to St G. J. Mivart, [23 January 1871].
CD and Mivart had been corresponding since 1867 (see Correspondence vols. 15–18).
On ‘change of front’, see the letter to Francis Darwin, [after 21 January 1871] and n. 9. In the second edition of On the genesis of species, Mivart changed, ‘This admission seems almost to amount to a change of front in the face of the enemy!’ (Mivart 1871a, p. 60) to ‘This admission appears to the author to be of compromising significance’ (Mivart 1871b, p. 67); ‘mimic’ (Mivart 1871a, p. 35) to ‘mock’ (Mivart 1871b, p. 39); and ‘dogmatic’ (Mivart 1871a, p. 102) to ‘positive’ (Mivart 1871b, p. 116).
This statement must have been in the missing letter to Mivart of 23 January 1871; see the draft letter to Mivart of [23 January 1871].
Plus royaliste que le Roi: more royalist than the king (French).
Mivart refers to Heinrich von Sybel and Sybel 1867–9. He added a lengthy note drawn from Sybel’s French Revolution to Mivart 1871b, pp. 233–4. He also refers to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and 1871.


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

Sybel, Heinrich von. 1867–9. History of the French Revolution. Translated from the third edition of the original German work by Walter Perry. 4 vols. London: J. Murray.


Is sorry CD found Genesis of species unfairly critical. Assures CD of his just intentions and offers to alter certain words and phrases in a new edition. Emphasises his high regard for CD but fears his views are leading to religious decay.

Letter details

Letter no.
St George Jackson Mivart
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, North Bank, 7
Source of text
DAR 171: 191
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7454,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

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