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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Roland Trimen   20 September 1871

24, Woburn Square, | London (W.C.)

20th. September, 1871.

My dear Mr. Darwin,

Many thanks for your kindness in sending me the critique on Mivart’s ‘Genesis of Species”.1 I seem to recognize the name of Chauncey Wright, but I cannot recall where I met with it. I like the critique very much in the main; partly no doubt, from the fact that I couldn’t get on at all with Mivart’s book when I tried to read it. I think that Mr. Wright very fairly points out Mivart’s deficiency in the mental grasp and range necessary for dealing with the great subject of your works. For my own part, I confess I could not follow the arguments in many parts of the “Genesis”, and where I could follow them I usually thought them weak if not fallacious. Mr. Wright’s illustration (p. 20) of the “obstructed path” across a field strikes me as a good one. Where he seems to me, however, to have quite lost his head is (at pp. 35–36) in his treatment of the Gospel record of Our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus.2 It is inconceivable to me how anybody can expect to strengthen a scientific argument by quoting a few detached expressions from passages of the Scriptures which in their entirety deal with wholly different matters.

Your letter of May 24th. came back from the Cape yesterday, and I am much obliged for your kind answers to my inquiries.3 The moon does seem to a certain extent to attract moths; for all collectors will tell you that on bright moon-lit nights moths fly higher than they do on dark ones, and I have noticed that on such bright nights comparatively few are attracted by artificial light—the moon seeming to exert a strong counter-attraction.4

I was very sorry to hear so poor an account of your health from Albury, and trust that you are now feeling stronger.5

Permit me to offer my congratulations to Mrs. Darwin and yourself on your daughter’s marriage, which I lately saw notified in the papers.6

Very faithfully yours, | Roland Trimen.


Trimen refers to Chauncey Wright’s critique of St George Jackson Mivart’s Genesis of Species (Wright 1871b; Mivart 1871a); see also letter from W. W. Reade, 18 September 1871 and n. 1.
Wright used the image of an obstructed pathway causing the travelled way ‘to swerve to the side or be broadened, or be abandoned’ (Wright 1871b, p. 20), to illustrate natural selection and individual variation. In Wright 1871b, pp. 35–6, he referred to the story of Nicodemus from John 3: 1–21. He used the story to draw a distinction between the natural and the supernatural.
The letter to Roland Trimen, 24 May [1871], was a reply to the letter from Roland Trimen, 17 and 18 April 1871. Trimen was a clerk of the second class in the Colonial Office, Cape of Good Hope (South Africa; Colonial Office list 1871). CD had sent his reply to South Africa, but because Trimen was by then in London the letter was sent back to England.
Trimen, while visiting Albury, Surrey, had wished to visit the Darwins, who were staying at nearby Haredene; the visit was prevented by CD’s illness (see letter from Emma Darwin to Roland Trimen, [22 August 1871]).
An announcement appeared in The Times, 1 September 1871, p. 1, of the marriage of CD’s daughter Henrietta Emma Darwin to Richard Buckley Litchfield on 31 August 1871.


Colonial Office list: The Colonial Office list … or, general register of the colonial dependencies of Great Britain. London: Edward Stanford; Harrison & Sons. 1862–99.


On St G. J. Mivart’s Genesis of species and Chauncey Wright’s review of it [North Am. Rev. (July 1871)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Roland Trimen
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Woburn Square, 24
Source of text
DAR 178: 190
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7956,” accessed on 20 October 2019,

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