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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   28 May 1877

Trin Coll:

Tuesday Mg. | May 28. 77

My dear Father,

I wrote to stop you answering in a hurry the offer of the degree because I have several things to say about it. In the first place I hear from Trotter & Hughes that a good many of the Council are very keen about offering the degree—1 They say you have never received any recognition by any of the public bodies of England & that yr. own University wd. like to be the first.2 I hear the master of Emman. wishes it particularly.3 But what I now want to say is this. They want you to accept formally, with the arrière pensée4 (if you think it really necessary) that you don’t intend to come. Trotter who is on the council is aware of this & therefore there is nothing underhand in doing so. If you refuse point-blank it will never come formally before the University that it has ever been offered, but they want to proceed at least as far as having a regular grace of the Senate, so that everything will have been done except the actual conferring of the degree   Of course this wd. give you no more trouble than actually refusing straight off.—

It will give absolutely no inconvenience to anybody even if your ultimate refusal is by telegraph & is delayed until the actual day of conferring the degree. The only thing is that they pass at once to other business.

If you are willing to carry out this idea I shd. think you might say in accepting that the state of yr. health always renders it quite uncertain whether you are able to fulfill engagements of this kind. I do not know whether you know how very short an affair the whole thing is— the whole thing would barely last quarter of an hour beginning at two.—

If you receive an invitation to the Lodge at Christ’s5 you may be already engaged as I would arrange everything for you & cd. stop you seeing people— that is assuming that you have any thoughts of coming. The journey here from London is just about the same length as that from Down to London & not so bothering because the train goes right thro!6

The degree will not be offered until the Oct. term—or rather wd. not be conferred until then.

Yours affectionately | G. H. Darwin


Coutts Trotter and Thomas McKenny Hughes served on the senate of the University of Cambridge, which intended to offer CD the honorary degree of doctor of laws (LLD). See letter from G. H. Darwin, [before 28 May 1877].
CD studied at the University of Cambridge from 1828 to 1831 (Correspondence vol. 1).
Samuel George Phear was master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
Arrière-pensée: concealed thought (French).
Christ’s College, Cambridge.
Orpington was nearest station to Down. It was on the Chislehurst to Sevenoaks extension of the South Eastern Railway; the branch opened on 3 March 1868 and it went to London via New Cross (Cox 1988, p. 48).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Cox, Dorothy. 1988. The book of Orpington. 2d edition. Buckingham: Barracuda Books.


Writes in detail about Cambridge offer of the honorary LL.D.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Trinity College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 59
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10974,” accessed on 16 May 2021,