RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1890. [Letters to and about Adam Sedgwick and the Origin of species]. In J. W. Clark and T. M. Hughes eds., The life and letters of the Reverend Adam Sedgwick. 2 vols. Cambridge: University Press, vol. 1, pp. 380-1, vol. 2, pp. 356-9.

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here. See the manuscript: Darwin, C. R. 1859.11.11. [Letter to Adam Sedgwick on sending Origin of species]. PC-USA-SedgwickOrigin

[page] 380

[To T. M. Hughes]

Down, Beckenham, Kent,

May 24, 1875.

My dear Sir,

I understand from my son that you wish to hear about my short geological tour with Professor Sedgwick in North Wales during the summer of 1831; but it is so long ago that I can tell you very little. As I desired to learn something about Geology, Professor Henslow asked Sedgwick to allow me to accompany him on his tour, and he assented to this in the readiest and kindest manner. He came to my father's house at Shrewsbury, and I remember how spirited and amusing his conversation was during the whole evening; but he talked so much about his health and uncomfortable feelings that my father, who was a doctor, thought that he was a confirmed hypochondriac.

We started next morning, and after a day or two he sent me across the country in a line parallel to his course, telling me to collect specimens of the rocks, and to note the stratification. In

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the evening he discussed what I had seen; and this of course encouraged me greatly, and made me exceedingly proud; but I now suspect that it was done merely for the sake of teaching me, and not for anything of value which I could have told him. I remember one little incident. We left Conway early in the morning, and for the first two or three miles of our walk he was gloomy, and hardly spoke a word. He then suddenly burst forth: "I know that the d—d fellow never gave her the sixpence. I'll go back at once;" and turned round to return to Conway. I was amazed, for I never heard before, or since, anything like an oath from him. On inquiry I found that he was convinced that the waiter had not given to the chambermaid the sixpence which he had left for her. He had no reason whatever, excepting that he thought the waiter 'an ill-looking fellow.' On my hinting that he could hardly accuse a man of theft on such grounds, he consented to proceed, but for some time he grumbled and growled. At last his brow cleared, and we had a delightful day, and he was as energetic as on all former occasions in climbing the mountains. We spent nearly a whole day in Cwm Idwal examining the rocks carefully, as he was very desirous to find fossils.

I have often thought of this day as a good instance of how easy it is for any one to overlook new phenomena, however conspicuous they may be. The valley is glaciated in the plainest manner, the rocks being mammillated, deeply scored, with many perched boulders, and well-defined moraines; yet none of these phenomena were observed by Professor Sedgwick, nor of course by me. Nevertheless they are so plain, that, as I saw in 1842, the presence of a glacier filling the valley would have rendered the evidence less distinct.

Shortly afterwards I left Professor Sedgwick, and struck across the country in another direction, and reported by letter what I saw. In his answer he discussed my ignorant remarks in his usual generous and frank manner. I am sorry to say that I can tell you nothing more about our little tour.

I find that I have kept only one letter from Professor Sedgwick, which he wrote after receiving a copy of my Origin of Species. His judgement naturally does not seem to me quite a fair one, but I think that the letter is characteristic of the man, and you are at liberty to publish it if you should so desire.

Believe me, my dear Sir,

Yours sincerely,

Charles Darwin.

[vol. 2 page] 356

Down, Bromley, Kent,

November 11th, 1859.

My dear Professor Sedgwick,

I have told Murray to send you a copy of my book On the Origin of Species, which is as yet only an abstract. As the conclusion at which I have arrived after an amount of work which is not apparent in this condensed sketch, is so diametrically opposed to that which you have often advocated with much force, you might think that I send my volume to you out of a spirit of bravado and with a want of respect, but I assure you that I am actuated by quite opposite feelings. Pray believe me, my honoured friend,

Your sincerely obliged,

Charles Darwin.

Cambridge, November 24th, 1859.

My dear Darwin,

I write to thank you for your work On the Origin of Species. …If I did not think you a good tempered and truth loving man I should not tell you that, (spite of the great knowledge; store of facts; capital views of the corelations of the various parts of organic nature; admirable hints about the diffusions, through wide regions, of nearly related organic beings, andc., andc.) I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly; parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow; because I think them utterly false

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and grievously mischievous You have deserted—after a start in that tram-road of all solid physical truth—the true method of induction—and started up a machinery as wild I think as Bishop Wilkin's locomotive that was to sail with us to the Moon. Many of your wide conclusions are based upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved. Why then express them in the language and arrangements of philosophical induction?

As to your grand principle—natural selection—what is it but a secondary consequence of supposed, or known, primary facts. Development is a better word because more close to the cause of the fact. For you do not deny causation. I call (in the abstract) causation the will of God: and I can prove that He acts for the good of His creatures. He also acts by laws which we can study and comprehend— Acting by law, and under what is called final cause, comprehends, I think, your whole principle. You write of "natural selection" as if it were done consciously by the selecting agent. 'Tis but a consequence of the presupposed development, and the subsequent battle for life.—

This view of nature you have stated admirably; tho' admitted by all naturalists and denied by no one of common sense. We all admit development as a fact of history; but how came it about? Here, in language, and still more in logic, we are point blank at issue— There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly Tis the crown and glory of organic science that it does thro' final cause , link material to moral; and yet does not allow us to mingle them in our first conception of laws, and our classification of such laws whether we consider one side of nature or the other— You have ignored this link; and, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it—and sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since

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its written records tell us of its history. Take the case of the bee cells. If your development produced the successive modification of the bee and its cells (which no mortal can prove) final cause would stand good as the directing cause under which the successive generations acted and gradually improved— Passages in your book, like that to which I have alluded (and there are others almost as bad) greatly shocked my moral taste. I think in speculating upon organic descent, you over state the evidence of geology; and that you under state it while you are talking of the broken links of your natural pedigree: but my paper is nearly done, and I must go to my lecture room.

Lastly then, I greatly dislike the concluding chapter—not as a summary—for in that light it appears good—but I dislike it from the tone of triumphant confidence in which you appeal to the rising generation (in a tone I condemned in the author of the Vestiges), and prophesy of things not yet in the womb of time; nor, (if we are to trust the accumulated experience of human sense and the inferences of its logic) ever likely to be found any where but in the fertile womb of man's imagination.

And now to say a word about a son of a monkey and an old friend of yours. I am better, far better than I was last year. I have been lecturing three days a week (formerly I gave six a week) without much fatigue but I find, by the loss of activity and memory, and of all productive powers, that my bodily frame is sinking slowly towards the earth. But I have visions of the future. They are as much a part of myself as my stomach and my heart; and tho visions are to have their antitype in solid fruition of what is best and greatest But on one condition only—that I humbly accept God's revelation of himself both in His works and in His word; and do my best to act in conformity with that knowledge which He only can give me, and He only can sustain me in doing If you and I do all this we shall meet in heaven

I have written in a hurry and in a spirit of brotherly love.

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Therefore forgive any sentence you happen to dislike; and believe me, spite of our disagreement in some points of the deepest moral interest, your true-hearted old friend

A. Sedgwick.

Ilkley Wells House

Otley, Yorkshire

26 November, 1859.

My dear Professor Sedgwick,

I did not at all expect that you would have written to me. You could not possibly have paid me a more honourable compliment than in expressing freely your strong disapprobation of my Book. I fully expected it. I can only say that I have worked like a slave on the subject for above 20 years and am not conscious that bad motives have influenced the conclusions at which I have arrived. I grieve to have shocked a man whom I sincerely honour. But I do not think you would wish anyone to conceal the results at which he has arrived after he has worked, according to the best ability which may be in him. I do not think my book will be mischievous; for there are so many workers that, if I be wrong I shall soon be annihilated; and surely you will agree that truth can be known only by rising victorious from every attack.
I daresay I may have written too confidently from feeling so confident of the truth of my main doctrine. I have made already a few converts of good and tried naturalists and oddly enough two of them compliment me on my cautious mode of expression! This will make you laugh. My notion of young men being best judges of new doctrines was not invented for occasion; for however erroneous, I remember nearly twenty years ago laughing with Lyell over the idea. I have tried to be honest in giving all the many and grave difficulties which occurred to me, or I met in published works. I cannot think a false theory would explain so many classes of facts, as the theory seems to me to do. But magna est veritas and thank God, proevalebit.

Forgive me for scribbling at such length, and let me say again how I grieved I am to have encountered your severe disapprobation and ridicule. Your kind and noble heart shows itself througout your letter. I thank you for writing, and remain with sincere respect,

Yours truly obliged,

Charles Darwin.

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