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Darwin Correspondence Project

From St G. J. Mivart   25 April 1870

7 North Bank | N.W.

April 25th 1870

My dear Sir,

It is exceedingly kind of you to write again & I feel I owe you some apology for saying more, in my last, than was strictly necessary in order to reply to your questions.1

Still it seemed to me that honesty & frankness required me to say what I did & that it was more truly respectful to express the statement than to withhold it.

I very much wish that I could chat with you at leisure over some of these matters and trust, dear Sir, that when you come to town you will kindly afford me the opportunity.

For my part I shall never feel anything but gratitude & sincere esteem for the author of “natural selection” but I heartily execrate some who make use of that theory simply as a weapon of offence against higher interests and as a means of impeding Man’s advance towards his “end” whatever may have been his “origin”.

In my wanderings about Italy I have been amused and saddened to see our friend Huxley’s “Mans place in Nature”2 for sale at most of the railway stations amongst a crowd of obscenities. It was evident that the Vendors counted on what we may term a “tendency to reversion” and I fear not a few of the purchasers would prefer to find that man “diverged” above the Cynocephali.3

At present I am mainly occupied with Batrachians but I shall no doubt return to my “first loves” some day.4

With kind regards & many thanks believe me | Dear Sir | Your’s most truly | St George Mivart.


Mivart refers to Thomas Henry Huxley and T. H. Huxley 1863.
Cynocephalus is the flying lemur. Mivart’s ‘trees’ were meant to show affinities between primates in relation to various parts of their skeletons, not genealogical relationships (see letter to St G. J. Mivart, 21 April [1870] and n. 2, and letter from St G. J. Mivart, 22 April and n. 1). Mivart imagines Huxley’s followers as wishing the divergence of humans from the rest of the primates to come later rather than earlier.
Mivart’s paper on the amphibian order Urodela (now Caudata: salamanders) was read at the Zoological Society of London on 28 April 1870 (Mivart 1870).


Mivart, St George Jackson. 1870. On the axial skeleton of the Urodela. Read 28 April 1870. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1870): 260–78.


Apologises for saying more than was necessary in his previous letter. Although he feels gratitude and esteem for CD, he execrates those who use natural selection to oppose man’s higher interests and impede his advance. Has seen Huxley’s Man’s place in nature for sale among a crowd of obscenities at most Italian railway stations.

Letter details

Letter no.
St George Jackson Mivart
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, North Bank, 7
Source of text
DAR 171: 187
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7173,” accessed on 18 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18