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Darwin Correspondence Project

From St. G. J. Mivart to T. H. Huxley   24 December 1874

124 Gower St. W. C.

Dec. 24th. 1874

Private & Confidential

Dear Huxley

I thank you for your letter of yesterday’s date as also for your promise to respect the ‘private and confidential’ character of these communications— a restriction which is merely temporary, namely till I have liberty to speak openly in my own name

The way however, in which you take my letter makes it necessary for me, in justice to myself, to reply and define more exactly what my meaning is. You say that you “gather that this regret and conviction that” this “attack was not justifiable” was in my mind ever since the article was published. “This impression of yours is not accurate. On seeing the passage as published I had” feeling of vexation lest my meaning should be misunderstood and a consequent wish that I had written in my own name and it was only since October that careful reconsideration of what Mr. Darwin wrote led me to deem that the expression I used was not in fact justified and that I formed the determination to make all the reparation I could.

This intention was not a mere vague one but I had a definite plan before me the execution of which has been to my great annoyance, delayed through no fault of mine. Thus, as I said in my letter, I did not feel in August as I have felt since October and when the apology was made, for which I take to myself the entire responsibility, I felt it was sufficient because it seemed to me to make sufficiently plain that I did not intend to attribute to Mr. G. Darwin any personal slur but only an advocacy of principles leading to the consequences named without in the least meaning that he would admit the legitimacy of the inference. Moreover I had to consider the dignity of the Review and not merely my own.

Even now I must in justice declare that bitter as is my regret and deep as is the pain I have experienced for having written as I did, that regret does not extend to the whole passage but refers to the special matters.

(1) The first of these is my having used the word ‘speaks in an approving strain’ because a careful consideration of Mr. G. Darwin’s paper has convinced me that the expression is unjustifiable except as regards ‘the most oppressive laws’ of which it still seems to me he does speak with approval. Accordingly as to this expression I am not only willing but anxious, as a simple matter of justice, to retract and to apologize to Mr. Darwin expressing my very deep regret, although as was said in the apology, Mr. Darwin’s tone seemed to me such as to render such a mistake ‘excusable’ though not ‘justifiable’

(2) The second matter I regret is having referred to sexual matters in a passage in which an Author’s name was mentioned. I regreted it and I regret it very much because there are so many people stupid enough to fancy or malicious enough to represent that the Review meant to imply some personal blame as to the Author referred to understanding instead of, as was the fact, that the Review simply selected an example likely to bring out his point most forcibly and naturally a propos of Marriage laws. This was the misunderstanding I dreaded and to which my last letter referred.

As to the course of conduct you say you would have followed, I must in reply say that I never thought of writing to Mr. Darwin Senior because, from his expression in the last letter I received from him, I thought he would much rather I should not. Neither did I think of writing to Mr. Darwin Junior, because I thought he would dream my doing so an impertinence.

The suggestion you make is new and welcome to me. Nevertheless in spite of my great regret as to the two points referred to I must maintain my opinion as to the tendency of Mr. Darwin’s article generally.

With respect to the “hideous sexual criminality” I may say that I know a most highly cultured and intellectual man, of the school I intended to oppose, who deliberately maintains that the propagation of the criminality referred to would be most useful and beneficial to society as tending to limit population without requiring what he calls the ‘immorality’ of ascetic self-denial.

Widely divergent as are our views as to what is most important for the welfare of Mankind, I shall never, while we both live, cease to hope that that divergence may cease and even while it still exists it does not on my side in the least obstruct “familiar intercourse” or render it “unpleasant to me, because it does not on my side, produce the least personal ill feeling”. Of course I can only submit to your wishes this but I do so with a hearty wish for many happy new years for you and yours remaining | Yours very faithfully | St Geo Mivart

T. H. Huxley, Esq. Sec. R.S. &c. &c. &c.


A confidential letter explaining in detail the extent to which he regrets his attack upon [George] Darwin’s article.

Letter details

Letter no.
St George Jackson Mivart
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
London, Gower Street, 124
Source of text
DAR 145: 369
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9778F,” accessed on 6 August 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22 (Appendix V)