In order to pass the BA examination, it was, also, necessary to
Paley's Evidences of
Christianity, and his Moral Philosophy. This was done
in a thorough manner, and I am convinced
that I could have written out the whole of the Evidences
with perfect correctness, but not of course
in the clear language of Paley. The logic of this book and, as I may add,
of his Natural Theology gave
me as much delight as did Euclid. The careful study of these works,
without attempting to learn any
part by rote, was the only part of the Academical Course which, as I
then felt and as I still believe,
was of the least use to me in the education of my mind.
One of the books Charles Darwin read at Cambridge University was
Natural Theology (1802). Many scholars have assumed that this
was a set text at the university in the early nineteenth century.
However, a study of the examination papers of
the university, and contemporary memoirs, autobiographies and correspondence,
no evidence that this was so, though it did appear in some of the
This contrasts with other books by Paley which did appear for many years
university and college examinations. This paper uses the misapprehension
about Paley's text as a starting point to investigate the role
of natural theology in a Cambridge education
in the first three decades of the nineteenth century.