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Letter 9920

Darwin, C. R. to Lubbock, John

8 Apr 1875


Writes regarding local difficulties concerning Down School and the setting up of a reading-room; his strained relationship with G. S. ffinden following some misunderstanding.


2 Bryanston St.— Portman Sq.

April 8th. 1875

My dear Sir John

You are quite right in believing that I never had any intention to slight Mr. Ffinden; nor have I slighted him.f1

When I wrote to the Privy Council I had never heard of the rule thatSchool Boards should correspond solely through the Chairman; but Icannot believe that a parishioner may not independently ask aquestion with respect to a subject not as yet brought before aSchool Board, or a voluntary Committee, as in our case.f2 Had thisbeen the rule, I should either have received a reprimand or beenanswered through the Chairman.

The affair about the repairs is simply ridiculous. I sent a messageto Mr. Town, asking him to complete the repairs as soon as possible, that the room might be used, and was told that they would cost £5.f3 Iassumed, but without making any enquiry, that this higher estimate hadbeen agreed on, and when Mr. T. sent me his bill for £5, I told himto apply to the School Committee. After a considerable interval heinformed me that only £4 had been paid; and then I learnt, for thefirst time, that I had ordered repairs beyond the agreement, and ofcourse immediately paid the extra £1 myself.—f4 This happenedseveral weeks ago.

It is very good of you to endeavour to restore peace in the village,and you are at full liberty to say that I had never any intention ofshowing any disrespect to Mr. Ffinden; but I cannot apologise, for Ido not think any apology is due on my part.

Mr. Ffinden accused me in the vestry of having made falsestatements, and when asked what they were, answered that I said thatthe Schoolroom had been previously lent as a Reading Room for one yearless than had really occurred: so that I merely understated my groundsfor repeating the request. On the following day he wrote officially toMrs. Darwin, and again affirmed that I had made severalmistatements.f5 This is conduct which a man does not commonly pass overwithout some sort of apology.— Nevertheless if Mr. Ffinden bowsto Mrs. Darwin or myself we will return it; but I fear under presentcircumstances that we can take no further step.

I have troubled you with a very long letter on this paltry affair. |My dear Sir John | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin

DAR 146: 129



See letter from John Lubbock, 5 April [1875]. In 1873, the Darwins and the Lubbocks were involved in a dispute with George Sketchley Ffinden over the use of the Down schoolroom as a winter reading room; see Correspondence vol. 21, letter to Down School Board, [after 29 November 1873].
CD’s letter to the Privy Council has not been found. However, see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from G. S. Ffinden to Emma Darwin, 24 December 1873, in which CD is said to have ‘addressed the Education Department’.
Daniel Town was a carpenter in Down.
CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS) record a payment to Townof £1 on 9 March 1875.
See Correspondence vol. 21, letter from G. S. Ffinden to Emma Darwin, 24 December 1873.
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