RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1887. [Letter to R. G. Whiteman, 1881.] Notes by citizen. Worcestershire Chronicle (26 November), p. 1.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 1.2020. RN1.

NOTE: This letter was published in More letters, pp. 392-3, however the last sentence was there omitted. It is letter 13146 in Calendar.

Introduction by Christine Chua and John van Wyhe:

Richard Gilbert Whiteman (1809-93) was a well-known citizen of Worcester who frequently contributed to periodicals. This is the only known exchange between Darwin and Whiteman. Whiteman wrote to Darwin regarding a lecture by Thomas Cooper (1805-1892), a Chartist and Christian lecturer. Cooper lectured throughout England and Scotland, preaching his version of Christianity. In an 1883 report on Cooper's lectures in The Weston-Supermare Gazette (11 July), p. 2, we learn that Cooper claimed that "Men of science, such as Newton, did not turn God out-of-doors in their works, but he should not like to condemn Charles Darwin as an Atheist, for he had a letter in his possession which rather tended to show that he believed in God, and he hoped Darwin's letters, which were about to be published would throw some light on his opinions, and it might turn out that he was a more Christian man that they thought at the present time."

In Cooper's last book, in 1885, Thoughts at fourscore: A medley, the following letter was printed:

"The Vicarage, Beverley:

"Tuesday, Sept. 19th, 1882.

"MY DEAR SIR, - I heard your lecture last night with pleasure; and I beg to inform you that, five years ago, I sent a letter to Mr. Darwin's son, addressed to my uncle, the late Professor Eadie, from his father, - in which he says that he can with confidence look to Calvary.

"Wishing your great success in your lectures here,

"I remain yours respectfully,

"Robert Eadie, F.R.G.S.

"THOS COOPER, ESQ."

John Eadie, (1810-1876) D.D, LL.D, was a divinity professor in Glasgow. There are no known letters to or from Eadie. Obviously Darwin would write no such thing.


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The literary world, and also the world of science are chiefly exercised at the present time by the "Life of Darwin," just published by the great thinker's son. So many new lights are thrown upon the character of this wonderful man by the publication, that his personality becomes doubly attractive, and all that concerns him, is read with the deepest interest.

It is therefore, a pleasure to be enabled to give my fellow citizens a new scrap of information.

In 1881- about a year before Darwin died - a Mr. Cooper, lecturing in Angel-street Chapel, Worcester, on scientific teaching, made a number of very sarcastic and derisive remarks on Darwinian theories, and was particularly severe on the omission in later editions of "The Origin of Species" of a startling statement made in the first edition.

Mr R. G. Whiteman, of this city, wrote to Mr. Darwin, and told him of the attacks made on his theories. In reply Mr. Darwin sent the following letter, which I am enabled, by Mr. Whiteman's courtesy to reproduce:

Down, Beckenham, Kent, May 5, 1881.

Dear Sir, - In the first edition of the Origin, after the sentence ending with the words "...insects in the water," I added the following sentence: "Even in so extreme a case as this, if the supply of insects were constant, and if better adapted competitors did not already exist in the country, I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and large mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale."

This sentence was omitted in the subsequent editions, owing to the advice of Professor Owen, as it was liable to be misinterpreted; but I have always regretted that I followed this advice, for I think the view quite reasonable.

The remarks of such a man as Mr. Cooper are utterly unimportant, but I thank you for your interest in the case.

Dear Sir,

Yours faithfully,

CH. DARWIN.


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