Much obliged for lecture [On some defects in public school education (1867)]. Would leave classics to those with zeal and taste for appreciation. Learned nothing at school except by reading and experimenting in chemistry.
March 5, 1867
My dear Sir
I am very much obliged for your kind present of your lecture.
We have read it aloud with the greatest interest and I agree to every word. I admire
your candour and wonderful freedom from prejudice; for I feel an inward conviction that
if I had been a great classical scholar I should never have been able to have judged
fairly on the subject. As it is, I am one of the root and
branch men, and would leave classics to be learnt by those
alone who have sufficient zeal and the high taste requisite for their appreciation. You
have indeed done a great public service in speaking out so boldly. Scientific men might
rail for ever, and it would only be said that they railed at what they did not
understand. I was at school at Shrewsbury under a great scholar, D
I heartily hope that you may live to see your zeal and labour produce good fruit; and with my best thanks, I remain, my dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin
- f1 5432.f1CD refers to Farrar's lecture at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, `On some defects in public school education' (Farrar 1867). CD's copy has not been found.
- f2 5432.f2Although he was a master at Harrow school and a classical scholar, Farrar was critical of the prevailing system of English education, which was based on Greek and Latin. He advocated the teaching of science, as well as reforms in classical education that would eliminate verse composition and the memorisation of abstruse grammatical rules (Farrar 1867).
- f3 5432.f3Root and branch men: those supporting a reform involving the total abolition of some existing institution (OED).
- f4 5432.f4Samuel Butler was headmaster of Shrewsbury School when CD was a pupil there.
- f5 5432.f5In his Autobiography, p. 46, CD wrote about his early interest in chemistry, as a result of which he was given the nickname `Gas' by his schoolmates (see also Correspondence vol. 1).