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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Power   3 December 1878

To the Reverend the Vice-Chancellor,1 and the Council of the Senate, of the University of Cambridge.

We, the undersigned,2

Considering the fact that the present regulation, according to which a knowledge of Greek is required from all Candidates for the Previous Examination at Cambridge, has the effect of excluding a large and increasing number of able and deserving students from the benefits of a University Education,3

Respectfully pray that the Authorities of the University will be pleased to take into consideration some means whereby Candidates for an Honour Degree may be relieved from the obligation of passing an Examination in Greek.4

J. J. Hornby, Eton College.

G. Ridding, Winchester College.

C. B. Scott, Westminster School.

F. W. Walker, St Paul’s School.

H. M. Butler, Harrow School.

T. W. Jex Blake, Rugby School.

E. M. Young, Sherborne School.

E. A. Abbott, City of London School.

S. Dill, Manchester Grammar School.

A. S. Wilkins, Owens College.


Matthew Arnold.

T. Carlyle.

Frederick Cavendish.

B. M. Cowie.

C. Darwin.

J. Llewelyn Davies.

F. Exon.6

F. W. Farrar.

W. E. Forster.

M. E. Grant Duff.

J. L. Hammond.

J. D. Hooker.



T. H. Huxley.

R. C. Jebb.

J. Manchester.9

Joseph B. Mayor.

H. J. Roby.

A. P. Stanley.

W. Spottiswoode.

W. H. Stone.

G. O. Trevelyan.

J. Tyndall.

C. J. Vaughan.

H. W. Watson.


The signatories included the headmasters of the major boys’ schools and other educational establishments, as well as well-known public figures.
The Previous Examination, colloquially known as the ‘Little-Go’, was a test of Latin, ancient Greek, mathematics, and theology for all second-year undergraduates at Cambridge University (Winstanley 1947, pp. 144–5). In 1868, CD had been concerned that Horace Darwin, who intended to study for a science degree, might not pass the Little-Go as he was ‘backward’ in classics (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter to R. C. M. Rouse, [after 12 March 1868]).
In March 1879, the Senate of the University of Cambridge appointed a committee to consider this memorial and the questions arising from it, but the request to remove Greek from the examination was rejected in 1880 (Winstanley 1947, pp. 178–80).
Henry Austin Bruce, Baron Aberdare.
Frederick Temple, bishop of Exeter.
Richard Monckton Milnes, Baron Houghton.
John Laird Mair Lawrence, Baron Lawrence.
James Fraser, bishop of Manchester.


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

Winstanley, Denys Arthur. 1947. Later Victorian Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Petition Cambridge University that candidates for an Honour degree may be relieved from the obligation of passing an examination in Greek.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Power
Source of text
Cambridge University Reporter, 7 December 1878, pp. 206–7

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11768G,” accessed on 29 November 2022,