Butler’s idea of evolution was developed over the publication of four books, several articles and essays between 1863 and 1890. These publications, although never achieving the success expected by Butler, proposed a psychological elaboration of evolution (robustly enforced by Lamarck’s philosophy), called ‘unconscious memory’. This was strongly in contrast with the materialistic approach suggested by Darwin’s natural selection. Starting with a historical introduction, this paper aspires to ascertain the logic, meaning and significance of Butler’s idea of ‘unconscious memory’ in the post-Darwinian physiological and psychological Pan-European discussion. Particular attention is devoted to demonstrating that Butler was not only a populariser of science but also an active protagonist in the late Victorian psychological debate.