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Canterbury Pieces   By: (1835-1902)

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This etext was produced from the 1914 A. C. Fifield edition by David Price, email


by Samuel Butler


Darwin on the Origin of Species A Dialogue Barrel Organs Letter: 21 Feb 1863 Letter: 14 Mar 1863 Letter: 18 Mar 1863 Letter: 11 Apr 1863 Letter: 22 June 1863 Darwin Among the Machines Lucubratio Ebria A note on "The Tempest" The English Cricketers


Prefatory Note

As the following dialogue embodies the earliest fruits of Butler's study of the works of Charles Darwin, with whose name his own was destined in later years to be so closely connected, and thus possesses an interest apart from its intrinsic merit, a few words as to the circumstances in which it was published will not be out of place.

Butler arrived in New Zealand in October, 1859, and about the same time Charles Darwin's ORIGIN OF SPECIES was published. Shortly afterwards the book came into Butler's hands. He seems to have read it carefully, and meditated upon it. The result of his meditations took the shape of the following dialogue, which was published on 20 December, 1862, in the PRESS which had been started in the town of Christ Church in May, 1861. The dialogue did not by any means pass unnoticed. On the 17th of January, 1863, a leading article (of course unsigned) appeared in the PRESS, under the title "Barrel Organs," discussing Darwin's theories, and incidentally referring to Butler's dialogue. A reply to this article, signed A .M., appeared on the 21st of February, and the correspondence was continued until the 22nd of June, 1863. The dialogue itself, which was unearthed from the early files of the PRESS, mainly owing to the exertions of Mr. Henry Festing Jones, was reprinted, together with the correspondence that followed its publication, in the PRESS of June 8 and 15, 1912. Soon after the original appearance of Butler's dialogue a copy of it fell into the hands of Charles Darwin, possibly sent to him by a friend in New Zealand. Darwin was sufficiently struck by it to forward it to the editor of some magazine, which has not been identified, with the following letter:

Down, Bromley, Kent, S.E. March 24 [1863].


Mr. Darwin takes the liberty to send by this post to the Editor a New Zealand newspaper for the very improbable chance of the Editor having some spare space to reprint a Dialogue on Species. This Dialogue, written by some [sic] quite unknown to Mr. Darwin, is remarkable from its spirit and from giving so clear and accurate a view of Mr. D. [sic] theory. It is also remarkable from being published in a colony exactly 12 years old, in which it might have [sic] thought only material interests would have been regarded.

The autograph of this letter was purchased from Mr. Tregaskis by Mr. Festing Jones, and subsequently presented by him to the Museum at Christ Church. The letter cannot be dated with certainty, but since Butler's dialogue was published in December, 1862, and it is at least probable that the copy of the PRESS which contained it was sent to Darwin shortly after it appeared, we may conclude with tolerable certainty that the letter was written in March, 1863. Further light is thrown on the controversy by a correspondence which took place between Butler and Darwin in 1865, shortly after Butler's return to England. During that year Butler had published a pamphlet entitled THE EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST AS GIVEN BY THE FOUR EVANGELISTS CRITICALLY EXAMINED, of which he afterwards incorporated the substance into THE FAIR HAVEN. Butler sent a copy of this pamphlet to Darwin, and in due course received the following reply:

Down, Bromley, Kent. September 30 [1865].

My dear Sir, I am much obliged to you for so kindly sending me your Evidences, etc. We have read it with much interest... Continue reading book >>

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