RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1902-3. [Letter to Max Müller, 1873]. In Georgina Max Müller, Life and letters of Friedrich Max Müller. 2 vols. London, vol. 1, p. 478.

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

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

Emma Darwin's diary recorded Müller's visit on 5 March 1882, so 1874 may not have been the only time the two men met.

"Müller, Friedrich Max, 1823-1900. Better known as Max M. German philologist and orientalist living in England. Curator of Bodley's Library. Friendly correspondent with CD. 1850-68 Deputy Taylorian Prof. modern European languages Oxford. 1868- Corpus Christi Prof. Comparative Philology Oxford. 1870 onwards M criticised CD's theories of the origin of language. 1882 Visited Down House." (Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe, Darwin, A Companion, 2021)

[Volume 1, 1903]

[page] 477

Parks End, Oxford. June 29, 1873.

To Charles Darwin, Esq.

'In taking the liberty of forwarding to you a copy of my Lectures, I feel certain that you will accept my remarks as what they were intended to be—an open statement of the difficulties which a student of language feels when called upon to explain the languages of man, such as he finds them, as the possible development of what has been called the language of animals. The interjectional and mimetic theories of the origin of language, are no doubt very attractive and plausible, but if they were more than that, one at least of the great authorities in the Science of Language, Humboldt, Bopp, Grimm, Burnouf, Curtius, Schleicher &c. would have adopted them. However, it matters very little who is right and who is wrong; but it matters a great deal what is right and what is wrong, and as an honest, though it may be unsuccessful attempt at finding out what is true with regard to the conditions under which human language is possible, I venture to send you my three Lectures, trusting that, though I differ from some of your conclusions, you will believe me to be one of your diligent readers and sincere admirers.'

That  the  Lectures  did  not  alter  Mr.  Darwin's  cordial appreciation  of  Max  Müller  is  shown  by  the  following charming  letter,  inserted  by  permission:—

[page] 478

Down, Beckenham, Kent, July 3, 1873.

Dear Sir,

I am much obliged for your kind note and present of your lectures. I am extremely glad to have received them from you, and I had intended ordering them.

I feel quite sure from what I have read in your works that you would never say anything of an honest adversary to which he would have any just right to object; and as for myself you have often spoken highly of me, perhaps more highly than I deserve.

'As far as language is concerned, I am not worthy to be your adversary, as I know extremely little about it, and that little learnt from very few books. 1 should have been glad to have avoided the whole subject, but was compelled to take it up as well as I could. He who is fully convinced, as I am, that man is descended from some lower animal, is almost forced to believe a priori that articulate language has been developed from inarticulate cries; and he is therefore hardly a fair judge of the arguments opposed to his belief.

'With cordial respect, I remain, dear Sir,

'Yours very faithfully,

'Charles Darwin.'

The Lectures were answered by Mr. Darwin's son, whose article was again replied to by Max Müller in the Contemporary Review, called, 'My reply to Mr. Darwin,' which in its turn provoked the violent attack by Professor Whitney on Max Muller described in a later chapter. […]

[page] 494


Translation. October 9 [1874]


Then we went to stay with Mr. Grant Duff, formerly Under-Secretary for India, and with Sir John Lubbock, where we met Darwin, Tyndall, Spencer, and the two Lepsius.[…]This visit was the only time Max Müller and Darwin met. The conversation turning on apes as the progenitors of man,

[page] 495

Max Muller asserted that if speech were left out of consideration, there was a fatal flaw in the line of facts. 'You are a dangerous man,' said Darwin, laughingly.

[Volume 2:]

[page] 42

[Translation of Müller's letter to 'Professor Noire']


February 8 [1878]

'Darwin; has given us, in his later editions of the Origin of Species, an historical treatise on his mental ancestors. Altogether old Darwin; is an honest fellow. The Darwinians are much worse than Darwin; himself, and I think the word "Darwinism" ought either to be sharply defined or should be replaced by "evolution-doctrine." […]

[page] 350

[Letter to W. E. Gladstone, 27 July 1896]

[…] Logos seems to me the true answer to Darwin; and all his simperings about special acts of creation. I am a great admirer of Darwin;, but he had no philosophical education, no Greek background. I knew him personally; he was charming, and very great in his own domain, but his so-called disciples have placed him in a false position, and it will take a long time before the old Logos takes its right place again, instead of a number of purely mechanical pretenders, such as Natural Selection, Survival of the Fittest, Panmixia, &c. –all mythological fictions, no better than the gods of Greece and India!'

[page] 364

[Interview given to a 'religious paper' (Christian World?) in 1896]

[…]If God wished us to know what is to be, He would tell us. Darwin; has shown us that there is continuity from beginning to end."[…]


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