RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1894. [Letter to Charles Bradlaugh, 1877]. In Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, Charles Bradlaugh: a record of his life and work. 2 vols. London, p. 24.

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.

Bradlaugh and Annie Besant were being prosecuted for obscenity for reprinting an 1832 birth-control pamphlet. Bradlaugh wrote to Darwin on 5 June 1877 hoping to subpoena him to assist them. Darwin, however, was against birth control. Darwin's draft reply is in CUL-DAR202.32, dated 6 June 1877. This appears to be the only letter to Bradlaugh. The portion of the letter printed by Bradlaugh's daughter omitted Darwin's views on that subject, and instead gave only his health reasons for wishing not to attend. The details of Bradlaugh's case and the letter in its entirety can be found in Correspondence vol. 25, pp. 223-224.

[page] 24

Charles Darwin wrote his thanks for the courtesy of the notice, saying:—

"I have been for many years much out of health, and have been forced to give up all society or public meetings; and it would be great suffering to me to be a witness in a Court. It is indeed not improbable that I might be unable to attend. Therefore I hope that if in your power you will excuse my attendance…If it is not asking too great a favour, I should be greatly obliged if you would inform me what you decide; as apprehension of the coming exertion would prevent the rest which I receive doing me much good."

As Mr Darwin was going away from home, he gave addresses where he might be found if he was wanted. But of course it was decided to manage without his evidence.

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

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