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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. J. Weir   18 December [1875]1


Dec. 18th

My dear Sir

You will have heard that Ray Lankester who has done such excellent work in embryology has been black-balled at Linn. Soc.2 I hear from one of the black-ballers that this has been done to punish the Council for intending to remit his fees.3 Now this seems to me a most flagitious proceeding. I know not & care not whether the Council intended to act rightly or wrongly. The power has been given them & it is wicked to cast a stigma for life on a rising naturalist by black-balling him to punish the Council.— Those who think the Council have done wrong could have called a special meeting, or blamed it at the Anniversary,4 & taken away the power of ever again remitting fees.— I have consulted many men & all as yet have agreed with me. I have therefore most willingly consented to second (Huxley proposing him) Mr Lankester for a second time (I knew nothing of the first proposal & he is not my personal friend, only an acquaintance) & he will be balloted for on Feb 3d at 8 oclock.5

If you shd. take the same view as I do, I earnestly hope that you will attend & endeavour to influence other members. It seems to me a case (& this is my sole motive) when one man of science ought to aid another, & I shd be very sorry to see so disgraceful a stigma rest on the Linn. Soc.—

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I laid case before a high Government Official to see how he wd view it, & he used even stronger language than I have done.—6

Pray forgive this ill-expressed note, as I write in a forced hurry.—


The year is established by the reference to the blackballing of Edwin Ray Lankester at the Linnean Society (see n. 2, below).
Lankester was blackballed at the meeting of the Linnean Society on 2 December 1875 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 December 1875 and n. 5).
Arthur Gardiner Butler was probably the source of this information (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 16 December [1875] and n. 3.
The anniversary meeting of the Linnean Society was held on 24 May (Linnaeus’s birthday) whenever possible. At this meeting, the Council and officers of the society were elected (Charter and bye-laws of the Linnean Society of London (1874), p. 17).
CD had declared his intention of seconding a proposal that Lankester stand again for election to the Linnean Society in his letter to ?, [after 11 December 1875]; Thomas Henry Huxley was the proposer.
The government official may have been Thomas Henry Farrer; CD had discussed Lankester’s blackballing with him on 16 December (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 16 December [1875]).


Charter and bye-laws of the Linnean Society of London. London: Taylor and Francis. 1874.


E. Ray Lankester blackballed by Linnean Society. Another election planned. Would JJW use his influence in Lankester’s favour?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Jenner Weir
Sent from
London, Bryanston St, 2 Down letterhead
Source of text
The British Library (Egerton MS 3009 C f.11)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10306,” accessed on 16 April 2021,

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