RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1882. Mr. Darwin and revelation. Pall Mall Gazette (23 September): 2.

REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, text prepared and edited by John van Wyhe 10.2007. RN1

NOTE: This letter was very widely reprinted and translated at the time. See for example, F3360 and F3419.

On the Mengden letter episode, see also: CUL-DAR198.139, F1998 and A304.

[page] 2

THE following correspondence has been addressed to the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette:—


SIR,—The enclosed is the translation of a letter written by Mr Darwin in answer to an inquiry from a young student at Jena,1 in whom the study of Darwin's books had raised religious doubts. It is, perhaps, not altogether irrelevant, at a time when priests of various creeds are claiming Darwin for their own, to publish an authentic statement of what his views really were, particularly as this statement will be widely read in Germany, and Darwin's own countrymen ought to be at least as well informed on the subject as foreigners.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


Frankfort-on-Main, Sept. 20.

[Letter from Mr. Darwin to a young student at Jena quoted in a lecture by Professor Haeckel at the Natural Science Congress at Eisenach.]2

Sir,—I am very busy, and am an old man in delicate health, and have not time to answer your, questions fully, even assuming that they are capable of being answered at all.3 Science and Christ have nothing to do with each other, except in as far as the habit of scientific investigation makes a man cautious about accepting any proofs. As far as I am concerned, I do not believe that any revelation has ever been made. With regard to a future life, every one must draw his own conclusions from vague and contradictory probabilities. Wishing you well, I remain, your obedient servant,


Down, June 5, 1879.

1 Nicolai Alexandrovitch Mengden (b. 1862), Russian diplomat, student at Imperial University Dorpat, in what is now Estonia.

2 Darwin's letter was published in German translation in Haeckel 1882, p. 89.

3 Mengden wrote to Darwin on 2 April 1879 asking if a believer in his theory could also believe in God. A reply in the affirmative was written by Emma Darwin. Mengden wrote again stating that Haeckel disbelieves in the supernatural, what did Darwin think? This letter was Darwin's response. See Calendar 11971 and 12079.

This document has been accessed 10285 times

Return to homepage

Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

File last updated 14 May, 2022