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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Pritchard   8 October 1866


1866 Oct 8.

Dear Mr Darwin,

As a matter of dutiful courtesy to you I take the liberty of sending you a copy of a Sermon lately preached before the British Assocn at Nottingham.1 In the Appendix Note A. I have stated certain reasons why I disagree with your (apparent) view of the gradual genesis of the Human Eye by Natural Selection.2 You will I am sure as gladly accord to the views held as a Mathn or Astronr—as I respectfully do to you as a great Naturalist & I trust you will for once at all events see that an Orthodox Clergyman can write & speak of a view which he does not accept, as a gentleman ought.

I grieve to say my eloquent colleague D. Moore indulges in railery where he ought either to have been silent or have given reason for outspeech.3

Should you read my preface you will see what is the spirit in which I think seekers after truth ought to meet each other.4

I rejoice greatly to hear of the well being of your boys,5 & am dear Sir | very Sincerely yrs | C. Pritchard


The reference is to the published version of Pritchard’s sermon (C. Pritchard 1866) given in response to William Robert Grove’s presidential address at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Nottingham (W. R. Grove 1866). Grove’s address supported the idea of the transmutation of species. CD’s annotated copy of the sermon is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Pritchard opposed the view that the development of the human eye could be explained by the operation of natural selection over several millions of years (see however, letter to Charles Pritchard, 12 October [1866] and n. 3). His chief objection, based on William Thomson’s calculations of the age of the earth, was that there was not enough time for the changes CD described to have occurred (see W. Thomson 1862a and 1862b; for more on the controversy about the age of the earth, see Burchfield 1990).
Pritchard alludes to the disparaging remarks made by Daniel Moore about Grove’s presidential address and Darwinian theory in the introduction to his sermon preached at Nottingham on the occasion of the British Association meeting (see D. Moore 1866, pp. v–vi).
In the preface to his sermon, Pritchard argued that there should be no conflict between faith and scientific inquiry, since each new fact would be a new illustration of divine truth. He was critical of ‘suspicious timidity regarding science and scientific men’ and of ignorant attacks on the supposed tendencies of science made by some in religious circles (C. Pritchard 1866, pp. vii–viii).
Until 1862, Pritchard had been headmaster of Clapham Grammar School, where CD’s sons George, Francis, and Leonard were pupils (DNB).


Burchfield, Joe D. 1990. Lord Kelvin and the age of the earth. With a new afterword. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Grove, William Robert. 1866. Address of the president. Report of the thirty-sixth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Nottingham, pp. liii–lxxxii.

Moore, Daniel. 1866. The unsearchableness of God: a sermon, preached at St. Matthew’s church, Nottingham, on Sunday, 26th August, 1866, on the occasion of the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. London, Oxford, and Cambridge: Rivingtons.

Pritchard, Charles. 1866. The continuity of the schemes of nature and of revelation. A sermon preached, by request, on the occasion of the meeting of the British Association at Nottingham. With remarks on some relations of modern knowledge to theology. London: Bell and Daldy.


Sends sermon he preached at the BAAS Nottingham meeting ["The continuity of the schemes of nature and revelation" (1866)], in which he disagrees with CD on the gradual genesis of the human eye by natural selection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Pritchard
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 174: 78
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5234,” accessed on 21 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14