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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Maw   15 March 1861

Benthall Hall. Broseley.

March 15th. 1861.

Dr Sir.

I hope you will not consider that I as a stranger to you am taking too great a liberty in sending you a copy of circular relating to the 〈Tes〉timonial that is being raised for Mr Newman.1 I think naturalists are under a great debt of gratitude to him for organizing the collection of a vast amount of information & valuable facts connected with Natural-History. indeed he stands quite alone as the Naturalists Calenderer2 & although I have no particular sympathy with Testimonials in general I think Mr Newman’s peculiar services demand some marked expression of favor from his brother naturalists—

I think I know your “Origin of Species” almost by heart   to me it is a most perplexing question on the one hand the history of man upon the Earth appe〈ars to〉 be a wonderful epitomy of what 〈two words〉 has gone before us.— Race struggling with race— Some getting the mastery— The stronger extinguishing the weaker then culminating & perhaps becoming unwieldly by their size & trying to include too great a diversity of components breaking up into different nations—isolated from each other by some peculiar character〈s〉 which though of advantage to them separately were incompatible in association—

Each of the young nations at first fill different spheres increase & multiply— all have not the same strength   the more powerful outrun the others   The weakest are wholly extinguished & those of middle power too strong to die & too weak to multiply go dwindling on from age to age as feeble communities bringing down to posterity antiquated characters which have been quite lost in the subdivision of the more vigorous races into modern nations. Then on the other hand the classification of mineral Elements seems to be a close repetition of that in organic nature— Group subordinate to group & unequal amounts of difference between different groups & the individuals of different groups. this cannot be the result of any active process. The grouping together of the Alkalis with very small amounts of difference is most striking not only by arbitrary measures of resemblance but by a most complete series of correlated affinities. Then again as opposed to this close resemblance there are isolated individuals as Carbon Nitrogen Silex &c. & isolated groups of closely related individuals as the Iodine group or the platina group amongst the metals— also sociable groups as the alkalis alkaline Earths. & True Earths. indeed just that kind of variety in the measure of affinity between individuals or groups that we find in the organic kingdoms. then again these are curious colateral relationships (as between the Heavy & light metals thro the resemblance of Lead to Baryta) which look most singularly like geneological affinity. These facts seem to throw a doubt on the cause you assign for the parallel phenomena in the organic kingdoms.

With great respect & many apologies for the liberty I have taken in writing to you | Believe me Dr Sir | very faithfully & obediently yrs | George Maw.

I forgot to state that it has been determined to purchase & present to Mr Newman a number of valuable works on Natural History which his own means will not enable him to become possessed of.

Charles Darwin Esqre

CD annotations

0.3 Dr … nations. 3.6] crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘11’3 brown crayon, circled brown crayon; ‘(good)’ brown crayon; ‘Diseases & Furniture can be classed naturally’ pencil


Edward Newman was the editor of the Zoologist and the natural history editor of the Field.
As editor of the Zoologist, Newman saw to the publication and recording of large amounts of natural history data. He also personally contributed a great deal of zoological data: the Royal Society catalogue of published scientific papers lists 281 papers by Newman.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on classification.


Asks for a testimonial for Edward Newman.

Discusses the Origin, considers natural selection works well when applied to the evolution of nations and groups of men; on the other hand feels the classification of mineral elements is a damaging analogy as it parallels organic classification but could not be derived by any evolutionary means.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Maw
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Benthall Hall
Source of text
DAR 171.1(3): 95
Physical description
6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3089,” accessed on 23 April 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9