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Darwin Correspondence Project

To F. E. Abbot   16 November [1871]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Nov. 16th

My dear Sir

I have read again “Truths for the Times”, & abide by my words as strictly true. If you still think fit to publish them, you had better perhaps omit “I believe” & add “almost” to every word—so that it will run .... ....“& I agree to almost every word.”2 The points on which I doubtfully differ are unimportant but it is better to be accurate. I shd be much obliged if you would somehow preface the words as an extract from a letter not originally intended for publication, or to this effect; as it seems to be somewhat conceited or arrogant otherwise to express my assent.—

I can say with entire truth that I feel honoured by your request that I shd. become a contributor to the Index, & am much obliged for the draft.—3 I fully, also, subscribe to the proposition that it is the duty of everyone to spread what he believes to be the truth; & I honour you for doing so with so much devotion & zeal. But I cannot comply with your request for the following reasons; & excuse me for giving them in some detail, as I shd. be very sorry to appear in your eyes ungracious. My health is very weak: I never pass 24 hours without many hours of discomfort, when I can do nothing whatever. I have thus also lost two whole consecutive months this summer. Owing to this weakness, & my head being often giddy I am unable to master new subjects, requiring much thought, & can deal only with old materials. At no time am I quick thinker or writer; whatever I have done in science has solely been by long pondering, patience & industry.— Now I have never systematically thought much on Religion, in relation to Science, or on morals in relation to society, & without steadily keeping my mind on such subjects for a long period, I am really incapable of writing anything worth sending to the Index. Many years ago I was strongly advised by a friend never to introduce anything about religion—in my works, if I wished to advance science in England; & this led me not to consider the mutual bearings of the two subjects. Had I foreseen, how much more liberal the world would become, I shd. perhaps have acted differently.— As I honestly feel I could not be an efficient contributor to the Index, I am sure that you will excuse my returning your draft.

Forgive this untidy note, for my head has been giddy for much of the day, | With entire respect & good wishes, believe me, My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I see I have not thanked you for the extreme kindness of your letter, received this morning.—4


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from F. E. Abbot, 1 November 1871.
CD refers to his letter to F. E. Abbot, 27 May [1871], in which he praised Abbot’s ‘Truths for the times’ (Abbot 1870). See letter from F. E. Abbot, 1 November 1871 and n. 1. Extracts from CD’s letters to F. E. Abbot, 27 May [1871] and 16 November [1871], were published in the Index, 23 December 1871, p. 404. CD’s copy is in DAR 139.12: 2.
Abbot had enclosed a cheque for $50 with his letter of 1 November 1871.


Explains why he must decline to write for the Index: his health is poor and he has never systematically thought much on religion. FEA may print his comments, "with qualifications", if he wishes.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8070,” accessed on 29 January 2023,

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