To T. H. Huxley 23 October 1
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Huxley
The names which you give as supporting your memorial make me quite distrust my own judgment.2 But as I must say yea or nay, I am forced to say that I doubt the wisdom of the movement, & am not willing at present to sign.3 My reasons, perhaps of very little value, are as follows. The governing classes are thoroughily unscientific, & the men of art & of archæology have much greater weight with government than we have. If we make a move to separate from Brit. Museum, I cannot but fear that we may go to the dogs. I think we owe our position in large part to the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the B. Mus. attracted by the heteregeous mixture of objects. If we lost this support, as I think we should, for a mere collection of animals does not seem very attractive to the masses (judging from Museum of Zoolog. Soc. formerly in Leicester Square &c)4 then I do not think we shd get nearly so much aid from government. Therefore I shd be inclined to stick to the mummies & Assyrian Gods, as long as we could. If we knew that Government was going to turn us out, then, & not till then, I shd be inclined to make an energetic move.—
If we were to separate, I do not believe that we shd have funds granted for the many books required for occasional reference: each man must speak from his own experience, I have so repeatedly required to see old transactions & old Travels &c, that I shd regret extremely, when at work at Brit. Mus, to be separated from the entire Library. The facilities for working at certain great classes, as Birds, larger fossils &c are no doubt as bad as possible or rather impossible on the open days; but I have found the working rooms of the assistants very convenient for all other classes on all days.
In regard to the Botanical collections I am too ignorant to express any opinion: the point seems to be how far Botanists would object to journey to Kew; but there are evidently many great advantages in the transposition.5
If I had my own way, I would make the B. Mus. collection only a typical one for display, which would be quite as amusing & far more instructive to the populace (& I think to naturalists) than the present enormous display of Birds & Mammals. I would save expence of stuffing & would keep all skins, except a few “typicals”, in drawers. Thus much room would be saved, & a little more space could be given to real workers, who could work all days. Rooms fitted up with thousands of drawers would cost but little. With this I shd be contented. Until I had pretty sure information that we were going to be turned out, I would not stir in the matter.— With such opponents, as you name, I daresay I am quite wrong, but this is my best though doubtful present judgment.—
My dear Huxley | Yours very sincerely | Ch Darwin
P.S. | The memorial does not strike me as very lucid. The number of Divisions & Sub-divisions seem to me rather bothersome, & destructive of force of the whole.—6
It seems to me dangerous even to hint at a new Scientific Museum—a popular Museum & to subsidise the Zoological Gardens; it would, I think, frighten any government.—
CD’s reasons for not signing the memorial requesting removal of natural history exhibits from British Museum. Less sure about moving botanical specimens to Kew. His notion of museum organisation.
- Letter no.
- Darwin, C. R.
- Huxley, T. H.
- Sent from
- Source of text
- Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 243)
- Physical description
- 4pp †
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2347,” accessed on 27 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-2347