RECORD: Butler, Samuel. 1984. [Recollections of Darwin, 1872-1882]. In Hans-Peter Breuer ed., The note-books of Samuel Butler. Volume 1 (1874-1883). Boston: University Press of America, pp. 122-3, 129-31, 168, 204, 237.

REVISION HISTORY: Text prepared by John van Wyhe 11.2010. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here.

[page] 122

Written about November, 1880 Edited October 29 and 30, 1894


About my quarrel with him (she is now Mrs. Fisher). She had been to dine and sleep at Down (October, 1880) and I saw her in the Museum afterwards. She said Mr. Darwin had no idea that the last sentence of Dr. Krause's Erasmus Darwin

[page] 123

was what it was. He knew nothing of what Dr. Krause had written, and was not responsible for it; he was just asked to write a preface, and that was all he had to do with the matter.

My answer to this was, "Then why did not Mr. Darwin say this in his letter to me, and why did he not write to the Athenaeum and say so when I wrote to the Athenaeum in January, 1880. If he had done this, neither I nor any one else would have believed him, but we should have been bound to say we did, and I should have said no more."

Her second plea was that Mr. Darwin was at a complete loss to understand what my indignation was all about. "I am sure," said he, "that I must have done something very dreadful for he seems very angry, and if I only knew what it was I should be &c. &c." She quoted these as his words, imitating a plaintive tone as of an injured innocent.

Plea 3 was the nobleness and beauty of Mr. Darwin's character. He was not as other men are.

Plea 4 was that it was all a piece of personal pique on my part. "If," said she, "there is one thing which I detest and despise more than another it is a merely personal dispute. You cannot put up with anything that wounds your self esteem." What she meant by this last I do not know. She gave me the impression of wishing to go as far as she dared in the direction of saying that I had taken some private personal offence with Mr. Darwin of a nature quite different to that which I pretended in public, and that it was something to do with some wound my vanity had received. She did not say this outright but her manner was extremely angry, and the impression left upon my mind was that she was accusing me of private personal malice. I said, "Why Miss Buckley, it is not a private matter, it is a public one." "Who cares two straws about it?" said she fiercely-as though plea 5 were about to consist in the contention that Mr. Darwin was so strong and I so insignificant that it did not matter what he did.

Then she went on to say that I had to thank Mr. Darwin for having saved me from some very rough treatment at Dr. Krause's hands inasmuch as Dr. Krause had sent back his revised article to Mr. Darwin, with open attacks upon me of a very severe character (Crawley had already told me this), and that Mr. Darwin had interfered, and had said, "No, this is not the place for an attack upon Mr. Butler," so all these passages were cut out, and I ought to be very grateful, but unfortunately the last paragraph was left.

This last constitutes plea 6. How it is reconcileable with plea 1-that Mr. Darwin did not know anything about what Dr. Krause had written-I do not quite see.

I was beginning to lose my own temper now, so I closed the conversation. A few days afterwards I met her again and tackled her. She was then more reasonable, and said nothing but h'm h'm, to all I said.

[page] 129

Written November, 1880 Edited Wednesday and Thursday, February 27 and 28, 1895


I went to Down' twice, the first time being a few weeks after I had published Erewhon in 1872. Mr. Darwin was exceedingly kind and I enjoyed my visit very much. I could see, however, that he did not like Erewhon, in spite of the polite things he said. He did like the short "philosophical dialogue" referred to by me at the end of Chapter I of Unconscious Memory, and published I think in 1862 in the Canterbury Press. He wrote to me about this when I was in New Zealand. I do not know how he came to see it. I feel sure I did not send it to him. He wrote me that he considered it one of the best things that had been written upon the subject of his book, which was not saying much for the others.

Almost immediately on my arrival Mr. Darwin praised this dialogue cordially, but I felt at once that he did not like Erewhom. Whether it was the machines or what I could not make out-at any rate I wrote the preface to the second edition to stroke him down, because I suspected the machine chapters to be the peccant matter. He asked me if I had ever read much upon kindred subjects, and when I said "no," he added, "you have caught the terminology very well," and so it dropped.

[page] 130

He evidently bore a grudge against my grandfather, Dr. Butler. His brother Erasmus with whom I lunched (I think in 1874), heard Charles speaking more or less disparagingly of my grandfather to me, and immediately checked him and said, "I do not think you should say so, Charles, Dr. Butler was always very kind to us."

I think Charles Darwin smelt mischief with me from afar; Mivart's book The Genesis of Species had already been fluttering him not a little, and an uneasy conscience may have told him that I should be sure to get hold of it sooner or later, and that when I did I was just the sort of man who would go for him. However, he was very kind, and won my heart; when I went away I did so quite under the impression that the visit had been a success.

I remember George Darwin shocked me by saying he did not believe in "Natural Selection" which I took then to mean "Evolution." I could hardly believe my ears, but his brothers stopped him from saying more, and the conversation was immediately changed, nor did I think further of the matter for some time, but I am convinced now that the sons all of them knew what a fraud the Origin of Species really was.

My second visit was some months later. Frank Darwin asked me down. His father, to my great surprise received me with marked coldness--so much so that I was on the point of asking Frank for some explanation, but I did not. All the Saturday and Sunday forenoon I felt that I had made a great blunder in coming, but never found out what it was all about. I do not know that I was ever, in a quiet way, made to feel worse at ease. On Sunday after lunch I read some of the introduction to The Fair Haven to the sons, in the smoking room. Whether they told their father they liked it, and advised him to be careful, I do not know; the whole thing is still a mystery to me; but at dinner Mr. Darwin's manner was changed; he was as friendly as he had before been the reverse, and he continued so to the end of my visit. I concluded, therefore, that he had been ill or tired the day before, and forgave him, but I resolved never to go to Down again. Nor was I ever asked, but as I have said above, I met Charles Darwin and Mrs. Darwin at Erasmus Darwin's. I think in 1874. He was then quite friendly.

P.S. I feel pretty sure that what passed when Miss Buckley was at Down last month, was much as follows. Charles Darwin said, "You know Mr. Butler is rather a strange person; his manners are very odd: when he had written Erewhon we asked him here, in fact I believe he came twice, but somehow or other neither Mrs. Darwin nor myself were attracted by him. You know how many people I am obliged to have here, and with my health visitors are a strain upon me, so we did not ask him any more. I am afraid Mr. Butler has been offended by this and attacks me in consequence."

In my account of what passed between Miss Buckley and myself I should have said that when she told me she had been staying at Down, and how delightful it had been, I said what a charming house it was to stay at--I too had been there. She was silent in a manner that surprised me, so I repeated what I had said, but she was again silent. I did not put two and two together at the time, but feel tolerably sure that I have now done so correctly. Her silence, however, may have simply meant that whether Down was a pleasant place to stay at or no depended in great measure on the state of Mr. Darwin's temper at the moment.

I may also add that on my first visit I met Woolner the sculptor at Down. I did not much like him.

On my second visit I heard Mr. Darwin say that the corrections of the press of his last book (The Expression of the Emotions had cost him £160. No wonder

[page] 131

he gets his work into such a muddle.

I had a letter from him in answer to one from myself which accompanied a copy of The Fair Haven. Very nice and kind. He told me he thought I should do well to turn my attention to novel-writing. All scientific people recommend me to do this.

Written November 1880 Edited Friday, March 1, 1895


When Life and Habit came out I sent George Darwin a copy. He hurried up by return of post with three lines to the effect that he had not had time to read it "but it seems very interesting," and this was the last I ever heard of him.

[page] 168


Frank Darwin told me his father was once standing near the hippopotamus cage when a little boy and girl aged 4 and 5 came up; the hippopotamus shut his eyes for a minute. "That bird's dead," said the little girl, "come along."

[page] 204


Next day a Mr. Rothery, a County Court judge somewhere in South Wales, and I believe also Commissioner of Wrecks, called on my father and said what a beautiful sermon the Bishop had preached. He eyed me evidently with disapprobation, and was barely civil. He said he had been staying at Darwin's a few months before Darwin had died, and fell to lauding Darwin in a way which rightly or wrongly I thought was directed at me. He had evidently heard Darwin's version of our quarrel, but what that version was I know not.

[page] 237


I remember hearing Charles Darwin say that when he began to write on evolution he did not find a single man who accepted it; he spoke emphatically: "There was not one," he said, "of my friends who accepted it." All I can say is that he must have been very unfortunate in his friends. With seven or eight editions of the Vestiges sold already, there were plenty of believers in Evolution if he had chosen to look for them. True, the doctrine was generally rejected, but if the public had not been ripe to receive it, the Times would never have backed him up from the outset as it did. If the Times and a few other leading papers had not backed him, he might have written till now and made very little impression.

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