RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1885. [Letters to Henry Fawcett, 1861]. In Leslie Stephen, Life of Henry Fawcett. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., pp. 100-102.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 4.2022. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here. The two letters here were later published in ML 1: 189; 194.

"Fawcett, Henry, 1833-84. Political economist and statesman. Biography: Leslie Stephen, 1885. 1858 Blinded through shooting accident. 1860 F was present at Oxford BAAS meeting. 1861 F was at Manchester BAAS meeting and spoke in defence of Origin. 1861 F to CD, on John Stuart Mill's opinion of the logic of Origin. 1862 "On the method of Mr. Darwin in his treatise on the origin of species", Report BAAS, for 1861, p. 141. 1863-84 Prof. Political Economy Cambridge. 1865-84 MP. 1880-84 Postmaster General. 1882 FRS. 1883-84 Rector, University of Glasgow.
Torquay, Devon. 1861 Jul. 1-Aug. 26 CD had family holiday at. CD's brother also joined the family but left on Aug. 22. CD made observations on flight paths of male  humble bees there. CD wrote letters to many people from there. CCD9. CD began writing Orchids while there. See van Wyhe ed., 'Journal', (DAR158)." (Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe, Darwin: A Companion, 2021)

Emma Darwin recorded in her diary on 2 July 1861 "moved into Hesketh Crescent". A plaque was erected in 2004 to commemorate this visit. The 'German naturalist' has not been identified.

[page] 100

[…] I quote a passage or two from Darwin's letters, as anything that can throw additional light upon their writer is of interest. 'You could not possibly have told me anything,' writes Mr. Darwin, July 20, 1861, 'which would have given me more satisfaction than what you say about Mr. Mill's opinion. Until your review appeared I began to think that perhaps I did not understand at all how to reason scientifically.' Fawcett has told me that Mill had said to him that the 'Origin of Species' was admirable as a piece of thorough logical argument (I forget the precise phrase), and I presume that Fawcett had repeated this to Mr. Darwin. The later letter, dated September 18 (1861), refers to Fawcett's paper at the British Association:

'My dear Mr. Fawcett,—I wondered who had so kindly sent me the newspapers, which I was very glad to see; and now I have to thank you sincerely for allowing me to see your MS. It seems to me very good and sound; though I am certainly not an impartial judge. You will have done good service in calling the attention of scientific men to means and laws of philosophising. As far as I could judge by the papers, your opponents were unworthy of you. How miserably A. talked of my reputation, as if that had anything to do with it. . . How profoundly ignorant B. (who had said that Darwin should have published facts alone) must be of the very soul of observation! About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at

[page] 101

this rate a man might as well go into a gravel -pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!

'I have returned only lately from a two months' visit to Torquay, which did my health at the time good; but I am one of those miserable creatures who are never comfortable for twenty-four hours; and it is clear to me that I ought to be exterminated. I have been rather idle of late, or, speaking more strictly, working at some miscellaneous papers, which, however, have some direct bearing on the subject of species; yet I feel guilty at having neglected my larger book. But, to me, observing is much better sport than writing. I fear that I shall have wearied you with this long note.

'Pray believe that I feel sincerely grateful that you have taken up the cudgels in defence of the line of argument in the "Origin;" you will have benefited the subject. 'Many are so fearful of speaking out. A German naturalist came here the other day, and he tells me that there are many in Germany on our side; but that all seem fearful of speaking out, and waiting for some one to speak, and then many will follow. The naturalists seem as timid as young ladies should be, about their scientific reputation. There is much discussion on the subject on the Continent, even in quiet Holland, and I had a pamphlet from Moscow the other day by a man who sticks up famously for the imperfection of the "Geological Record," but complains that I have sadly understated

[page] 102

the variability of the old fossilised animals! But I must not run on. With sincere thanks and respects,

'Pray believe me,

'Yours very sincerely,

'Charles Darwin.'

This document has been accessed 244 times

Return to homepage

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

File last updated 7 December, 2022