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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Maria   [1880–2]1



You are a victim—to science!

You have no time to spare3 … True and granted. Although when you are eating and drinking and sleeping—surely you are robbing yourself of that time = Life claims to its rights! But we kill scarcely perceiving it our life’s Life; the nourishment would cheat us out of principles, of what we are wont to; it would cost us at the least as much time as we want for our affairs answering our career; still the judge examining truth as our proverb says ought to have two equal ears. Suppose, you had never given yourself to your sciences, should you ever have reached— — —and enriched— — —

I don’t pay compliments.

At all events not so thouroughly did you contemplate the Word of God! for I’m sure there too you would have stripped truth from abysses of mystic.— Science is knowledge of the truth, no matter which, but it is said: Science comes from God and leads to God! One way of finding God, of finding reason in faith is no doubt studying the Scripture. Willing not to deny a Perfect Being superior to all we ever shall imagine until we have pondered—(and then we shall no more deny)—these words of wisdom and best tendency = gates will open, larger than those, which led you in to listen to nature’s transitory wonders. Then you too would exclaim: O Thou Eternal Beauty how late did I love Thee!

But this result wants time, as any thing. An other way of finding God is, don’t laugh at me, if I cite—Goethe.

Wer nie sein Brod mit Thränen ass Wer nie die kummervollen Nächte Auf seinem Bette weinend sass Der kennt Euch nicht Ihr himmlischen Mächte! Who never ate his bread in tears Who never sat on his bed weeping sorrowful nights throughout Does not know ye Heavenly Powers!!4

Sir we may call it frenzy, when misery leads to despair and murder, but when misery leads to frenzy of Love to God—at the foot of the Cross— — —there is no wiser than such a frantic soul! When you compare the scope of Scripture’s parables, it is not a mere remedy to hold humanity back from bestiality, not a mere remedy to elevate the mind for temporal advantages—suffering patiently not because we cannot help suffering but for Christ and Eternity—that is a method worthy of God! I don’t know Sir how sensitive you are, but without being sentimental, certainly you had epocs in your life you would not sacrifice to science and would not sell what is dear to you for a discovery. A true Catholic does not sell his God neither.—

Faust who spent his youth and old age in researches; when in despair—for want of time—his life was near its end … did not ask answering success—strange! his heart makes the dictator “Satisfaction to the insatiable desire of the noblest feeling”!

What a loss of time—for Eternity, when at the end of our lives we know all—but ourselves!

All but the One thing as it is said in the Scripture, the One thing necessary—and Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His Words, although blamed by her busy sister, was praised by the Lord answering Martha her sister’s complaint: “One thing is necessaryMary has chosen the best part”! (Catholics rejoice in her memory to day 22/7:)5 She left all alone and took time to listen, to His Word.

We run a dreadful risk, if we are ignorant of what we cannot make out—jumping in science of all sciences, over head and heels perhaps=dying. What would we give then for a single moment—the time for repentance!—Time is money— time is Eternal Beatitude say combating catholics, for we want time to conquer it by merits.—

Faust little believed, perhaps less than he would confess; so, when Gretchen asked in a trembling tone: Do you believe in God?6 she got the plain answer: Call him as you like! As if the name were a hollow sound, not mentioning what we are really to understand calling Him God!— Why then, when we are in deepest sorrow or in extreme anxiety—do we feel the necessity of prayer?!—The thought of nature’s regular and irregular course does it comfort us, when our heart is breaking?

The ungrateful son in Schiller’s Räuber what a horrible scene, when he prays, persuaded all at once that God only could help—but he is not able to say a good prayer as his words show distinctly.7

Grillparzer—mark the contrast Sir—full of noblest feelings complained=, assisting at the funerals of a young lady who died on the day she dreamt a year ago, to be her last=“If I could but pray”!8

Why did he not exclaim, if a certain time was over,—time is calming … or why was he not silent rejoicing in dissipation to come and forgetfulness?

He felt the necessity of prayer, having no mind to deliver himself to deceiving illusions.— But if he wished to pray, why could he not? He was no criminal man   he was a man of intellect and not pushed by common fear. Whence the constraint of worshipping God? and what prevents him of doing so.

Humility! is the word which explains all. He was downcast and low-spirited but he was not humble by free will. Humility grants access to God and success but this word is exceedingly hard. To fall in love with our own weakness in order to be helped by Providence!!

We are dreaming and we suppose to live   take that literally Sir only in respect to awakening. Every thing seems so true while we are dreaming and we have no idea there is a state to come that makes it untrue. How glad was the hero of Grillparzer’s—Traum ein Leben—9as he awoke from a dream at the moment when a horrible sentence was to be fulfilled—he altered his resolution to go on a journey next morning—and enjoyed a happy home—the superstitious!!! man.

A Quidam10 felt himself dying. And before his spiritual eye recollection, stood all his past life’s sins, and he knew time will bring him before the Tribunal of God—he had no time to spare— An instant and he is judged for ever— —

— — — — — — —He awoke!—

He was not the dying old man!

He was a young man at the beginning of life! But he was cured for life by this New-years-dream.

Believe me Sir your truest friend | Maria | Hauptpost restante | Wien

Please Sir to send me word if you know German in order to read a little book I wished to send you long ago.— I forgot to tell you Sir, there is not a soul on earth knowing of this correspondence.— You believe me.


The author of the letter has not been identified.
IHS is the Christogram, the first three letters of Jesus in Greek. The second abbreviation has not been identified: it may stand for Maria virgo immaculata.
See this volume, Supplement, letter to Maria, [1880–2].
The poem is from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, vol. 1, book 2, chapter 13 (Goethe 1857, 1: 170).
July 22 is the feast day of Mary Magdelene. For Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha, see Luke 10:25–37. They were often conflated in Roman Catholic tradition.
See Goethe 1880, p. 252.
For the anecdote about Franz von Grillparzer, see Drake 1953, p. 77.
Quidam: a certain person (Latin).


Drake, Patricia. 1953. Grillparzer and Biedermeier. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. 1857. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. 2 vols. Stuttgart and Augsburg: J. A. Cotta’scher Verlag.

Grillparzer, Franz. 1840. Der Traum, ein Leben: dramatisches Marchen in vier Aufzugen. Vienna: J. B. Wallishausser.

Schiller, Friedrich von. 1781. Die Räuber: ein Schauspiel. Frankfurt and Leipzig: n.p.


Writes at length on importance of God and Catholicism, and the need to seek salvation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 201: 25
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Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12387,” accessed on 17 September 2021,