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Darwin Correspondence Project

To ?1   [after 11 December 1875]2

My dear Sir—

You have always shown so friendly a feeling towards me, that I have thought that you wd excuse me for writing to you on a subject which deeply interests me. I heard on Saturday that R. L. had been black-balled at the Linnean Soc.—3 I did not even know that he was a candidate; & my personal acquaintance with him is slight, having seen him only on a single occasion.4 But I have read many of his papers on Embryology5 &c & have seen the way in which he is spoken of by foreigners. Therefore I cannot doubt that as far as his scientific claims are concerned, he ought to have been elected.— I therefore agree most willingly to second, a new proposal, which is to be immediately suspended.—6

I am told on good authority that the reason of his being blackballed is that the Council intended to remit his fees.7

I know not & care not whether the Council was justified in their intention from some accounts which I have received it seems quite unjustifiable, from other accounts justifiable; But if they did wrong they ought to have been called to account & severely blamed at the anniversary or at a special meeting. (& which would be I think better to have later for other [illeg] Now what I earnestly beg you to do is to put yourself in [imagination] in the position of R. L, Suppose that you as a young man had done some good work & had been proposed for the Linnean Soc., & that the Council wished to remit, the fees, but that some person thought this was a very improper proceeding on their part; how could you not have thought yourself cruelly treated if you as an upright & honourable man had been blackballed on this account, & a stigma thus cast on you for the rest of your life; for it will be said of R. L “oh he was blackballed at the Linnean, & no one else has been for the last 50 years.”.— I feel this so strongly on this head, that I wd do almost anything to get him (though not my personal friend), elected by a large majority; & I further believe that such blackballing is enough to half ruin the Linn. Soc.— I have lately proposed one of my sons & Mr Romanes, & had this blackballing occurred earlier, I shd have doubted much before doing so.8 I beg you to have the [illeg] to let me hear from you, whether my argument has any weight on your mind, & in any case I trust that you will forgive me for troubling you. as I am [myself] concerned in the case [from being] agreed to second Dr Lankester on his second candidature


The recipient is not indicated on the draft, but it is possible that it was George James Allman, who was president of the Linnean Society. The draft might also have served as the basis of all the letters CD wrote in support of Edwin Ray Lankester’s second nomination for fellowship of the society (see, for example, letter to J. J. Weir, 18 December [1875]).
The month and year are established by the reference to the blackballing of Edwin Ray Lankester (see n. 3, below); the day is conjectured from CD having heard the news on Saturday 11 December (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [12 December 1875] and n. 2]).
CD heard from Joseph Dalton Hooker that Lankester had been blackballed at a meeting of the Linnean Society on 2 December 1875 (letter to J. D. Hooker, 2 December 1875).
Lankester had visited CD at Down on 18 July 1875 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Lankester had published a large number of papers by 1875. CD had been impressed by his writing since 1869 (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter to E. R. Lankester, 25 June 1869).
CD agreed to second Thomas Henry Huxley’s proposal that Lankester be put forward for election a second time (see letter to J. J. Weir, 18 December [1875] and n. 5); he had met Huxley on 12 December 1875 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). Proposals of fellows for election to the Linnean Society were suspended in the society in advance of the election meeting.
Francis Darwin and George John Romanes were elected fellows of the Linnean Society on 2 December 1875 (Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London (1875–6): ii); Lankester was blackballed at the same meeting.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Strongly disapproves of the blackballing of Edwin Ray Lankester by the Linnean Society. States the reasons for his disapproval and hopes they will be considered.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Bryanston St, 2
Source of text
DAR 97: C1–2
Physical description
ADraft 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10296,” accessed on 16 August 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23