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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Grant Allen   12 February 1879

22 Bonchurch Road. | North Kensington. | W.

Feb. 12. 79.

Dear Sir,

I have asked my publisher, Mr. Trübner, to forward you a copy of my new book on the Colour-Sense, which I hope will reach you at the same time with this letter.1 As I know your time must be very valuable to all the world, I venture to add that the parts of the book likely to interest you are Chaps. VIII and IX (on “Community of Taste” and “Direct Reaction”), and part of Chaps. III and IV. I mention this merely to save you the trouble of looking through parts of the book which are less connected with your line of study.2

May I also trouble you with a few words in anticipation of a probable criticism. You will doubtless ask why I have relied so much upon the recorded observations or experiments of others, and made so few myself. The fact is, I have not the time, money, or opportunity for working practically at natural science. I earn my whole livelihood by writing for the daily or weekly press. Now you will see at once that there is a great difference between a man working like yourself or Sir John Lubbock, and one who is perpetually occupied with the miserable trivialities of journalism. I can only give to science the little leisure which remains to me after the business of bread-winning for my family is finished. How scanty that leisure is, only those connected with journalism ever realize. At the same time, I believe that I can be of some little use to scientific men by throwing out such hints as occur to me, and by working, crassa Minerva,3 in my own way, with the few materials which come within my reach. I should immensely prefer, if I could spare the time and the money, to take up physiological psychology in a scientific way; to work for some years in a laboratory; and then to bring out definite results. But as that cannot be done, I think it is better for me to do such humble scientific work as lies in my power, rather than give up my whole energies to phrasemaking for the daily press. I merely mention this as an apology for the obvious short-comings of my book, which nevertheless I think it better to write than to leave my aperçus wholly unexpressed.

Trusting you will forgive my letter, and with all the respect which every Evolutionist owes to the founder of his faith, I am, | Yours very faithfully, | Grant Allen.


Allen’s book The colour-sense: its origin and development. An essay in comparative psychology (G. Allen 1879a) was published by Trübner & Co. (founded by Nicholas Trübner); CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 14–15).
Chapters 8 and 9 of G. Allen 1879a were titled ‘The community of taste between flower-feeding and fruit-eating species’ and ‘The direct reaction of the colour-sense upon animal integuments’; chapters 3 and 4, ‘The organ of vision’ and ‘Insects and flowers’. CD had commented on Allen’s Cornhill Magazine articles, which were later incorporated into chapters 4 and 6 (see G. Allen 1878a and 1878b, letter from Grant Allen, 19 March [1878], and G. Allen 1879a, p. ix).
Crassa Minerva (Latin): a reference to Horace, Satires 2.2.2–3, meaning ‘with slow or untutored intelligence’ (Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom).


Allen, Grant. 1878a. The origin of flowers. Cornhill Magazine 37: 534–50.

Allen, Grant. 1878b. The origin of fruits. Cornhill Magazine 38: 174–88.

Allen, Grant. 1879a. The colour-sense: its origin and development. An essay in comparative psychology. London: Trübner & Co.


Has sent copy of his new book, Colour-sense [1879]; in anticipation of criticism, he justifies his reliance on recorded observations rather than experiments, by the heavy demands of his career as a journalist.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Grant Blairfindie (Grant) Allen
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Bonchurch Rd, 22
Source of text
DAR 159: 43
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11873,” accessed on 20 August 2022,