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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Farrer   31 July [1877]1

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

July 31st

My dear Farrer

I cannot advise, as I know hardly any of the younger entomologists. The man ought to know the larvæ of the genus, & very few entomologists in England have attended to the larvæ of insects. He ought, also, to have attended to the destruction of insects.2 I think Prof Westwood of Oxford wd. be the best man to advise, as he formerly & for many years wrote for Gardener’s Chronicle.— He was lately or is Pres. Ent. Soc. & so knows the younger men; & the man ought to be young & active.3

I may tell you privately that the man who probably wd. expect to be appointed & whom many persons wd. recommend is Andrew Murray, who has lately been propounding wild schemes about the destruction of all insect-pests;4 but he is in my judgment a prodigy for his incapacity for forming a reasonable opinion on any subject.— He has just published such nonsense about carbonic acid & Plants.—5

Lindley, former Ed. of Gard. Ch.6 & a very acute man, I know, thought Andrew Murray a wonderful blockhead & yet he is in one sense a clever man.

This is all the little which I have got to say.— | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

We shall be quite delighted to come to Abinger.—7


The year is established by the reference to Andrew Murray’s remarks on plants and carbonic acid (see n. 4, below).
Farrer’s letter to CD has not been found, and the subject of his enquiry has not been identified. It may have had to do with the expected arrival of the Colorado beetle, a potato pest (see J. F. M. Clark 2009, pp. 135–53).
John Obadiah Westwood was entomological referee for the Gardeners’ Chronicle, and had been president of the Entomological Society of London for three terms, 1851–2, 1872–3, and 1876–7 (ODNB).
For Murray’s campaign against onion and carrot flies, see Journal of the Society of Arts, 8 June 1877, pp. 734–43, and J. F. M. Clark 2009, p. 134.
In an article in Gardeners’ Chronicle (A. Murray 1877), Murray denied that plants derived carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. See also letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 22 July [1877].
The Darwins stayed at Farrer’s home, Abinger Hall, near Dorking, Surrey, from 20 to 25 August 1877 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Clark, J. F. M. 2009. Bugs and the Victorians. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.

Murray, Andrew. 1877. Experiments on the flow of the sap. Gardeners’ Chroncle, 21 July 1877, pp. 72–4.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


THF is seeking advice regarding the selection of an entomologist to carry out some duties [apparently pest destruction].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st baronet and 1st Baron Farrer
Sent from
Source of text
V&A / Wedgwood Collection (MS W/M 546)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11083,” accessed on 7 June 2023,