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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Frigyes Medveczky   11 November 1876

Wien. (Grand Hotel)

Nov 11. 1876

Highly honoured Sir!

Will you allow a total stranger—a disciple of your science & one who honours your services to cultivated humanity—to send you a paper which has just been published—“Herder as a Precursor of Darwin, & of the modern Philosophy of Natural History—” with a request that you will accept it as a small mark of the unbounded admiration & esteem of the writer?1 The contents of the work is a close condensation of my notes on Herder’s relation to modern science—a study to which I have devoted myself for years with untiring zeal, & true love for the work. I need hardly say that I began with a study of the most important works of modern research, especially yours and Hæckels,2 and also a thorough study of the works of Herder on the Philosophy of natural History. I cannot judge whether I have succeeded in the task which I proposed to myself in the above named paper. I should therefore be grateful for any correction or any blame where you consider that I have said too much or too little, owing to my not yet thoroughly cultivated individuality (!!!)3 But my hope rather is that you, dear Sir, to whom this paper is really addressed, will pronounce a judgment both kind and just upon its conclusions, & thereby as the most able of all judges in this question, decide the victory of the good cause. In this hope I place in your hands this work (which of course only pretends to be an “avis aux savants,”4—a very small contribution to the giant building of your science) full of confidence & with the request for a lenient opinion, which, whether it be one of praise or blame, can only do me honour and give me pleasure. Do not therefore pass over without notice this “contribution to many contributions of the century”,5 but do you yourself, if you think it right, give to the almost forgotten [admirer] the honourable name of your intellectual precursor— the Prophet of your Theory! I know and value your conscientiousness in acknowledging all merit—, you will again display it in the cause of one of the greatest men of Germany.

It is in this belief that I look forward to your decision with confidence, & remain with unbounded admiration & heartfelt respect. Yrs | Friedrich von Bärenbach


There is a copy of Bärenbach 1877 (Medveczky, who was Hungarian, published under the name Friedrich von Bärenbach) in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Johann Gottfried Herder was an eighteenth-century German poet and philosopher, whom Bärenbach considered to be an early Darwinist (Nisbet 1970, p. 7). The inscription in Bärenbach 1877 is in a different hand from this letter, which is probably a translation in the hand of Francis Darwin; the original letter has not been found.
Ernst Haeckel.
An allusion to Herder’s emphasis on individuality as a philosophical concept. The triple exclamation point may have been added by the translator.
Avis aux savants: notice to scholars (French).
‘A contribution to many contributions of the century’ is the subtitle of Herder’s Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menschheit (Another philosophy of history for the education of humankind; [Herder] 1774).


Bärenbach, Friedrich von [Frigyes Medveczky]. 1877. Herder als Vorgänger Darwin’s und der modernen Naturphilosophie. Berlin: Verlag von Theobald Grieben.

[Herder, Johann Gottfried von.] 1774. Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menschheit. Beytrag zu vielen Beyträgen des Jahrhunderts. n.p.: n.p.

Nisbet, Hugh Barr. 1970. Herder and the philosophy and history of science. Cambridge: Modern Humanties Research Association.


Writing under the name of Friedrich von Bärenbach, FM sends his paper on J. G. Herder as a precursor of Darwin’s theory [Herder als Vorgänger Darwins (1877)]; hopes CD will acknowledge him as such.

Letter details

Letter no.
Frigyes Medveczky
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 41
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10666,” accessed on 26 February 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24