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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Kingsley   1 November 1867

Eversley Rectory, | Winchfield.

Nov. 1/67.

My dear Mr. Darwin

I have just found a letter written to you 5 years ago, & never sent.1 Do me the honour to read it— & even if you do not answer it, think over it

Yours ever attached | C Kingsley


Eversley March 23/62 My dear Mr. Darwin,

Will you kindly give me your views of an old puzzle of mine? I am told that man is the highest mammal—wh. I dont deny. But that is supposed to include the theory of his being the highest possible mammal—wh. I do deny.

I see two imperfections in man as he is

1. The existence of the mammæ in the male, shewing that the sexes are not yet perfectly separated.

2. The ditrematous condition, wh. he has in common with the other mammals.2

That the specialty of organs increases as you rise in the scale, is, I suppose an acknowledged law—3 And therefore, while I see, both in male & female, two difft. secretions passing through the one orifice of the urethra, I cannot but suspect imperfection, & look forward to some higher tri-trematous race.

It is noteworthy, that the fact of the 2 secretions (urinary & sexual) passing through the same orifice) has been in all ages, Brahmin, Buddhist, Monastic, & What not, the physical ground of the contempt of sex, & of all that belongs to sex. No physical fact has played a more important part in the history of religion— Wh. is, & always will be, the main history of the human mind.

Tell me what you think of this. You I can speak to as I can to no other man—4

Yours ever faithfully | C. Kingsley


Kingsley first wrote to CD after receiving a presentation copy of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter from Charles Kingsley, 18 November 1859). In early 1862, Kingsley and CD speculated on the ‘genealogy of man’ (Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Charles Kingsley, 31 January 1862, and letter to Charles Kingsley, 6 February [1862]).
Ditrematous: ‘having the anal and genital orifices distinct’ (OED).
CD added passages to the third and later editions of Origin on the advancement of organisation and structure by natural selection. CD cited Karl Ernst von Baer’s as the best standard of advancement or ‘highness’; according to von Baer, advancement or ‘highness’ was related to the amount of differentiation of different parts of an adult organism and to their degree of specialisation with regard to function (see, for example, Origin 3d ed., pp. 133–4, 363–7).
Kingsley’s sense of propriety was reflected in his address to the Devonshire Scientific Society in 1871, in which he declined to consider ‘physiological and anatomical’ aspects of the origin of man (Kingsley ed. 1883, p. 316). For more on Kingsley’s attitude to sexuality and his views on the divinity of carnal love, see Barker 2002.


Barker, Charles. 2002. Erotic martyrdom: Kingsley’s sexuality beyond sex. Victorian Studies 44: 465–88.

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

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Origin 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Sends a letter he wrote in 1862 [see 3482].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Kingsley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 36, 30
Physical description
1p encl 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5664,” accessed on 20 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15