skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Herbert Spencer   22 April 1865

88, Kensington Garden’s Sqre.

22nd. Apl. 1865

My dear Sir

We are getting our staff of the Reader into better working order; and are proposing forthwith to use all the means available for making a more decided impression, and establishing our position.1 Profs Huxley and Tyndall, Mr. J. S. Mill2 and myself, have severally agreed to write a few leading articles by way of giving the intended tone and direction.3

Among other means of making the public aware of the character of the Reader, we propose to obtain, so far as possible, occasional brief letters from the leading men of science, announcing such interesting novelties as admit of being understood by the general public, and are of fit nature to be quoted from our columns. I have a letter from Sir John Herschel consenting to aid us in this way. Sir Charles Lyell, too, has promised the like aid.

Can you in like manner give us, occasionally, the valuable help of your name?

I am aware that your health is so precarious that you are obliged to be very economical of your energies—a fact which I greatly regret. And I am fully impressed with the fact, that it would be wrong to ask you to undertake any other labours than those important ones which occupy you. The favor we ask, however, does not involve such a waste of labour in any appreciable degree. A letter of a dozen lines would suffice the purpose of giving us the weight of your name; and making it apparent that you joined in the effort to establish a scientific journal, and an organ of progressive opinion.4 We are all just now making considerable sacrifices to do this; and feel the necessity of concentrating all possible means of insuring that success which we have not yet quite achieved.

very sincerely yours | Herbert Spencer


The Reader: a Review of Literature, Science, and Art was a weekly paper, founded in 1863, that provided a forum for reviews of literary and scientific works. Its audience was ‘upper-middle-class, highly educated, politically liberal, and philosophically radical’ (Sullivan ed. 1984, p. 346). Spencer was instrumental in re-launching the paper with new proprietors and increased scientific content in November 1864, after both he and CD had become shareholders (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to John Lubbock, 19 November [1864] and n. 4, and Spencer 1904, 1: 118–19). The paper had been faltering since Thomas Henry Huxley’s article on science and church policy in the issue of 31 December 1864 offended many of the Christian-Socialist supporters of the paper and led some of the proprietors and editors to withdraw (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1865 and n. 14, and letter from T. H. Huxley, 15 January 1865, A. Desmond 1994–7, 1: 331–2, 343, and Barton 1998, p. 440). For CD’s opinion of the Reader, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1865, n. 14, and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 January [1865].
Spencer refers to Thomas Henry Huxley, John Tyndall, and John Stuart Mill.
On the intended character of the Reader and its connection with Huxley, Spencer, Tyndall, and other members of the X Club, see Barton 1998, pp. 433 and 439.
No correspondence from CD appears in the 1865 issues of the Reader. For CD’s support for the Reader, see n. 1, above.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Desmond, Adrian. 1994–7. Huxley. 2 vols. London: Michael Joseph.

Spencer, Herbert. 1904. An autobiography. 2 vols. London: Williams and Norgate.


Wonders whether CD might contribute, if possible, an occasional letter to the Reader to help in their effort to establish the journal.

Letter details

Letter no.
Herbert Spencer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Kensington Gardens Square, 88
Source of text
DAR 177: 225
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4817,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13