The Writings of Charles Darwin on the Web is an amazing resource which allows you to search the texts–including, at an offshoot site, some of his correspondence! When I was writing my honours dissertation I had to stop myself reading the letters obsessively, seeing if I could glean some overlooked insight about language buried in amongst the natural history anecdotes and Darwin’s bleating about his poor health.
This letter (reference only) to his sister Caroline was a great find. In it, Charles used the hypothetical age of the Indo-European languages, and their differences from Chinese to agree with Herschel that yes, the earth must indeed be older than 6000 years as argued by the Bible.
I also love this one (below) that CD wrote to Thomas Henry Huxley. I confess to being a bit of a Huxley fan myself, but their mutual admiration society makes me smile…
Down, March 19 .
My dear Huxley,
Thanks for your ‘Address.’* People complain of the unequal distribution of wealth, but it is a much greater shame and injustice that any one man should have the power to write so many brilliant essays as you have lately done. There is no one who writes like you…If I were in your shoes, I should tremble for my life. I agree with all you say, except that I must think that you draw too great a distinction between the evolutionists and the uniformitarians.
I find that the few sentences which I have sent to press in the ‘Origin’ about the age of the world will do fairly well…