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A First Year in Canterbury Settlement With Other Early Essays

[Concluding note]

It is curious that in this correspondence Darwin makes no reference to the fact that he had already had in his possession a copy of Butler’s dialogue and had endeavoured to induce the editor of an English periodical to reprint it. It is possible that we have not here the whole of the correspondence which passed between Darwin and Butler at this period, and this theory is supported by the fact that Butler seems to take for granted that Darwin knew all about the appearance of the original dialogue on the ORIGIN OF SPECIES in the PRESS. Enough, however, has been given to explain the correspondence which the publication of the dialogue occasioned. I do not know what authority Butler had for supposing that Charles John Abraham, Bishop of Wellington, was the author of the article entitled “Barrel-Organs,” and the “Savoyard” of the subsequent controversy. However, at that time Butler was deep in the page 155 counsels of the PRESS, and he may have received private information on the subject. Butler’s own reappearance over the initials A. M. is sufficiently explained in his letter to Darwin.

It is worth observing that Butler appears in the dialogue and ensuing correspondence in a character very different from that which he was later to assume. Here we have him as an ardent supporter of Charles Darwin, and adopting a contemptuous tone with regard to the claims of Erasmus Darwin to have sown the seed which was afterwards raised to maturity by his grandson. It would be interesting to know if it was this correspondence that first turned Butler’s attention seriously to the works of the older evolutionists and ultimately led to the production of EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW, in which the indebtedness of Charles Darwin to Erasmus Darwin, Buffon and Lamarck is demonstrated with such compelling force.