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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   [19 December 1875]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.


(Home tomorrow)

Dear Dyer.

It was a good job that I saw Bates, for the black-ballers had been with him; after some talk he declared that he would vote for R. Lankester, & persuade as many as he could to follow same course.2

Ramsay3 will do what he can, but I think this is little. Gould4 too ill to attend— Lowne writes that he will attend,5 & do all that he can with others. I wrote yesterday to Jenner Weir.—6

Some People say council too much of a “Kew clique”—7 other says not enough Zoologists on council. I cannot but think it wd be well to avoid in next council the former accusation, however false it may be.

F. Galton hears there will be severe struggle on the 3d.—8

I forgot to say that I saw Flower & it required rather long talk, but he ended by saying he wd. certainly come & vote for Lankester.9

Bates says he believes that Murie10 has been the head of the opposition.

I had got thus far when Dr. Murie called instead of answering my letter.11 He was most civil & cordial & expressed unbounded regret at opposing anyone supported by me; but I gather that he will oppose Lankester tooth & nail. He declared most solemnly that he was not in the least opposed to L. personally & that he acted solely because he did not think it was a case in which the Fees ought to be remitted.12 I find that this is a very general impression, & I fear that the council has made a great mistake. Some of the opponents urge that L. afforded to enter Royal last year.—13 I stuck to my line of argument that whether or not Council was wrong, yet that it was cruel to black-ball L. He & others have argued that they can oppose the Council in no other way. They declare that the Council does not fairly represent the Socy. & that old members are reelected in a circle.— I have no opinion whether there is any truth in this; but if I were on the Council, I would urge that several of the dissentients shd be put on Council. Between 30 & 40 years ago there was just the same feeling in Geolog. Soc. & this was cured by putting the complainers on the Council.—14 Please read all this latter part of my letter to Hooker; & ask him whether he has read Ld. Derby’s speech at Edinburgh about Science, which seems to me very good.—15

I shd. add that Murie declared most deliberately that Mr Mivart knew nothing whatever about the opposition to Lankester.—16 Well it is a great misfortune, but the case must be decided by the ballot-box.

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 16 December [1875]. The Sunday following 16 December 1875 was 19 December.
CD wanted Henry Walter Bates to support Edwin Ray Lankester’s second attempt to be elected a fellow of the Linnean Society after Lankester had been blackballed at the meeting of 2 December 1875 (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 16 December [1875]).
Benjamin Thompson Lowne’s letter has not been found.
A reference to botanists associated with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which would include Thiselton Dyer himself and Joseph Dalton Hooker.
Francis Galton’s comment has not been found. The Linnean Society met on 3 February 1876. Lankester hoped to be elected a fellow at this meeting.
CD’s letter to Murie has not been found.
The Council of the Linnean Society had proposed to remit Lankester’s membership fees (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 December 1875).
Lankester had been elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London in June 1875 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 December 1875 and n. 7).
CD probably alludes to the refusal by the Council of the Geological Society of London to consider Edward Charlesworth’s application for the post of curator of the society in 1842 (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to Charles Lyell, [5 and 7 October 1842], letter to W. H. Miller, [16 October – 27 November 1842], letter to W. D. Fox, [9 December 1842], and letter to J. S. Henslow, [22 January 1843]). Following this decision, Charlesworth’s supporters demanded an explanation, and the resulting rift among the fellows led several to threaten resignation (Herries Davies 2007, pp. 73 and 299). CD had served on the Council of the Geological Society from 1837 to 1850.
Thiselton-Dyer had been employed as Hooker’s assistant since June 1875 (letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 June 1875 and n. 2). Edward Henry Stanley, the earl of Derby, gave his inaugural address as lord rector of the University of Edinburgh on 17 December 1875. Lord Derby advocated science as a means of producing accurate minds; he also suggested that its advance would be accelerated if capitalists were to provide endowments for men of science (The Times, 18 December 1875, p. 9).
St George Jackson Mivart was one of the secretaries of the Linnean Society; CD had cut off all communication with Mivart in January 1875 (see letter to St G. J. Mivart, 12 January 1875).


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

Herries Davies, Gordon L. 2007. Whatever is under the earth: the Geological Society of London 1807 to 2007. London: Geological Society.


CD’s attempts to get support for Lankester among Fellows of the Linnean Society. He has encountered opposition to the Council.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer
Sent from
London, Bryanston St, 2
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Thiselton-Dyer, W.T., Letters from Charles Darwin 1873–81: 52–5)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10308,” accessed on 19 April 2024,

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