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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Samuel Butler   30 May 1872

15. Clifford’s Inn | Fleet Street E.C.

May 30. 1872

Dear Sir

Thank you very much for your kind letter received this morning with its very handsome enclosure for young May.1

I really do not know what to do about it: the lad is a mere boy, only 18 years old, who has never earned a penny in his life, and had no idea of being paid for what he did. He gave me the sketches, and understood perfectly that there was no money to be given for them: he has been brought up as one of your disciples, and was delighted at the notion of doing any thing which might by any chance be of use to you; but yet I cannot find it in my heart to take a couple of guineas out of a boy’s mouth when I remember how mine would have watered at the thought of them at his age. For I make no doubt that they are the first that he has ever had offered him for the work of his hands.

On the other hand, you very likely will not use the drawings at all, in which case I shall have been the means of putting you to needless expence, and repaid your kindness & hospitality in a way which does not please me—2

However on a balance of consideration I have resolved to send your note and cheque to the boy, and, as I know that he would be utterly uncertain what to do, shall tell him to write you a line of thanks and acknowledgement:3 at the same time if you want the fawning dog drawn on wood I might venture to pledge him to reproduce it, and he would feel much more comfortable in taking the money if he was to feel that you had not paid it for something which was useless to you— Still, if it could be done by photography it would be better still. I shall be proud to send the second edition of “Erewhon” which is now in preparation. I should have sent the first, but I felt very uncertain how far you might approve the book, and in your answer to my letter you told me that you had sent for it. I have set myself quite straight in the preface about having intended no villainy by the machines, and I have added a bit or two here and there—4

With kind regards and many thanks to Mrs Darwin and yourself for a visit of which I shall always retain a most agreeable recollection5 | I am | Your’s very truly | S. Butler


In his Account books–banking account (Down House MS), CD recorded a payment of £2 2s. to Arthur Dampier May on 29 May. CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter from Samuel Butler to Francis Darwin, [before 30 May 1872].
CD used May’s drawings of a hostile and an affectionate dog in Expression, pp. 54–5.
No letter from May has been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Erewhon was first published anonymously in 1872 ([S. Butler] 1872a); its authorship was announced in the Athenæum on 25 May 1872. The initial printing was sold out by the end of May, and the book was reset with minor changes and reissued in July (S. Butler 1872b). See Raby 1990, pp. 120–32. CD’s letter to Butler has not been found. In S. Butler 1872b, p. vi, Butler wrote, ‘I regret that reviewers have in some cases been inclined to treat the chapters on Machines as an attempt to reduce Mr Darwin’s theory to absurdity.’ See also letter from Samuel Butler, 11 May 1872.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Butler visited with Thomas and Alice Gertrude Woolner on 19 May 1872.


Butler, Samuel. 1872b. Erewhon, or, Over the range. 2d edition. London: Trübner.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Raby, Peter. 1990. Samuel Butler: a biography. London: Hogarth.


Thanks CD for his note and cheque for young May.

Will send copy of second edition of Erewhon, in which he has set himself straight about "having intended no villainy by the machines". [See 8318.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Samuel Butler
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Clifford’s Inn, 15
Source of text
DAR 106: A8–10
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8361,” accessed on 1 April 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20