DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). Autograph letter signed ('Charles Darwin') to Julia Wedgwood ('My dear Snow', his niece), Torquay, 11 July , 4 pages, 4to, on light blue paper (slightly dust-stained in folds, lower edges roughly trimmed, laid down); and a printed article by his correspondent.
An appreciation of Miss Wedgwood's comments on The Origin of Species. Darwin responds to her article [on 'The Boundaries of Science' in Macmillans Magazine] and her views on design in nature, and reports his discussions with Asa Gray about variation in the animal world, concluding with a wry reference to himself as 'the acknowledged descendant of an ape'.
'I must tell you how much I admire your article; though at the same time I must confess that I could not clearly follow you in some parts, which probably is in main part due to my not being at all accustomed to metaphysical trains of thought. I think that you understand my book perfectly, & that I find a very rare event with my critics ... The mind refuses to look at the universe, being what it is, without having been designed; yet, where one would most expect design, viz. in the structure of a sentient being, the more I think on the subject, the less I can see proof of design'.
The second part of the letter refers to his questioning of Asa Gray's views on the causes of variations in various birds, and whether they are 'accidental as far as purpose is concerned' or 'providentially designed'.
The Origin of Species was first published in 1859, and the second edition in January 1860. Julia Wedgwood's article, the second of two, takes the form of a dialogue between a defender of Darwin's views and a representative of religious orthodoxy, discussing the implications of natural selection for various metaphysical questions. At the time of writing the present letter, Darwin was conducting research for his next major work, Variations of Animals and Plants under Domestication (1868). Frances Julia Wedgwood (1833-1913) known to her family as 'Snow', was the eldest daughter of Hensleigh Wedgwood, Emma Darwin's brother, and was thus Charles Darwin's niece by marriage. In her twenties Julia wrote a novel, then took to literary criticism and corresponded with Darwin on a wide range of subjects, commenting freely on his works. Darwin's letter is published in the Correspondence, ed. F. Burckhardt etc. (1999, v.9) from the text given in the Life and Letters (ed. F. Darwin. 1887), which omits the last six lines.