Robert Mackenzie Beverley

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Robert Mackenzie Beverley (1798-1868) was an author, magistrate, and controversialist. He was born in the town of Beverley in Yorkshire, attended Richmond School, and matriculated at Trinity College, University of Cambridge in 1816. He received the degree of LL.B. in 1821, after which he lived at Beverley, in due course becoming a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant.[1]


Beverley was born into a Quaker family, but in 1836-1837 in the Beaconite Controversy he was one of the figures who followed Isaac Crewdson in resigning from the Society of Friends. He was among a number who then joined the Plymouth Brethren. As the Quakers did not practise baptism, he was baptised by the Brethren at Oxford in October 1838, Henry Bellenden Bulteel performing the service.[2]

Beverley wrote books, satires and poems mainly on religious themes, but including some on politics, both ecclesiastical[3][4] and temporal,[5] and with at least one foray into biology in which he attacked the then still new Darwinian theory.[6] He also wrote some epic poetry that achieved no lasting acclaim.[7][8] He is mentioned in some other writings of the day, largely in response to his attacks, for example in the Anacalypsis by Godfrey Higgins.[9]

In 1833 he published A letter to H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester, the chancellor of Cambridge at the time, on what he saw as the then corrupt state of the University. Much of its content was immoderate to a degree that provoked retaliation[10][11] and disapproval, including a rebuff from The Times.[1]

Beverley wrote on a range of other subjects, which often were of a controversial nature. He died at Scarborough on 3 November 1868.


Beverly was a staunch opponent of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.[12] In 1867, he authored The Darwinian Theory of the Transmutation of Species. The book contains criticism of natural selection:

It is to be observed that the two grand principles of the theory are avowedly metaphors. Natural Selection is a metaphorical expression, and the Struggle for Existence is used in ‘a large and metaphorical sense.’ These are the two pillars of the whole theory ; Natural Selection and the Struggle for Existence represent and express everything that Mr Darwin has to urge ; take them away and nothing remains, and yet they are both metaphors. If these terms are metaphors, they are not realities, but verbal pictures or shadows, and are, therefore, vicious terms in a scientific disquisition. Neither are they only now and then, and by way of illustration, introduced, though even that would scarcely be admissible in handling the great revelation of the existence and origin of beings; but they occur in almost every page [in On the Origin of Species], to the exclusion of other terms — so that from first to last we are led by a metaphor at every step, as the poor belated traveller is sometimes led by Will-o’-the-wisp into the fatal morass.[13]

Some of Beverley's works, alone or as part author[edit]

  • Horrida Hystrix, Satyricon Castoreanum (1826)
  • Jubal, A Dramatic Poem (1827)
  • An essay on the Zodiacs of Dendera (1831)
  • The Tombs of the Prophets: A Lay Sermon on the Corruptions of the Church of Christ (1831)
  • A Letter to his Grace the Archbishop of York, on the Present Corrupt State of the Church of England (1831)
  • A Second Letter to his Grace the Archbishop of York, on the Present Corrupt State of the Church of England (1832)
  • A Letter to Lord Henley, on the Deficiencies of his Plan of Church Reform (1833)
  • A Letter to His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester on the Present Corrupt State of the University of Cambridge (1833)
  • Letters on the Present State of the Visible Church of Christ: Addressed to John Angel James (1836)
  • The Wrongs of the Caffre Nation; a Narrative (1837)
  • An inquiry into the Scriptural Doctrine of Christian Ministry (1840)
  • The Church of England Examined by Scripture and Tradition: in an answer to lectures by the Rev. John Venn (1843)
  • The Redan, a Poem (1856)
  • Spiritual Worship, a Lay Discourse (1865)
  • The Darwinian Theory of the Transmutation of Species (1867)


  1. ^ a b Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Robert Mackenzie Beverley: Correspondence regarding his Attack on Cambridge University, MS Add.4249
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Beverley, Robert Mackenzie. A letter to lord Henley, on the deficiencies of his plan of Church reform. Sold by Simpkin and Marshall and others 1833 Available at
  4. ^ Beverley, Robert Mackenzie. The Posthumous Letters of Rev. Rabshakeh Gathercoal. Publisher: G. Westley and A. H. Davis 1835. Available under the pseudonym at
  5. ^ Beverley, R. M.; Philip, John, supposed author; Glenelg, Charles Grant. The wrongs of the Caffre nation; a narrative 1837 Available at
  6. ^ Beverley, Robert Mackenzie. The Darwinian Theory of the Transmutation of Species. Publisher: J. Nisbet 1867 may be downloaded from:
  7. ^ Beverley, Robert Mackenzie. The Redan, a poem. 1856 may be downloaded from:
  8. ^ Robert Mackenzie Beverley (1827). Jubal, a dramatic poem. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  9. ^ Godfrey Higgins (1 January 2007). Anacalypsis (Volume 1 of 2, Part 2 of 2). Publishing. pp. 496–. ISBN 978-1-4209-2992-8. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  10. ^ A Letter to R.M. Beverley, Esq., from an Undergraduate of the University of Cambridge. T. Stevenson; and Longman, Rees, & Company, London. 1833. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  11. ^ Francis Russel Hall; Robert Mackenzie Beverley (1834). A letter to R.M. Beverley ... containing strictures on his Letter to ... the duke of Gloucester ... on the present corrupt state of the University [of Cambridge]. pp. 40–. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  12. ^ Anonymous. (1868). Review: The Darwinian Theory of the Transmutation of Species. The Athenaeum, Part 4. p. 217.
  13. ^ Beverley, Robert Mackenzie. (1867). The Darwinian Theory of the Transmutation of Species. London: James Nisbet. p. 46.