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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alfred Newton   1 April 1879

Magd. Coll.

1 April 1879.

Dear Mr. Darwin

I should be very glad if you would add your signature to those of Flower and Huxley at the foot of the memorial I enclose.1 I am aware that you would have to take on trust a good many of of the statements therein made, but that you may see that some of the more important of them are not made without good grounds   I enclose also a sheet (taken quite at random) from Dr. Coues’s ‘Bibliographical Appendix’2

Dr. Coues has been for a long while collecting materials for a general Ornithological Bibliography’ but it is quite evident that he will never be able to complete it for publication without coming to England. His profession (a U.S. Army Surgeon) renders that impossible unless he can get special leave of absence & from correspondence I have had with him he seems to consider that his chance of of obtaining that leave would be materially improved by some such memorial as the enclosed, if it received a sufficient number of influential signatures. The notion of the Memorial did not however originate with Coues but with Salvin here.3

If you consent to sign it I propose to leave it to professed ornithologists who will, I feel sure, cordially support it.

The specimen of his bibliography that I enclose shews how thorough his work is. There is nothing indeed like it in the whole range of Zoological literature & should he be able to bring the whole thing out it could not fail as an example to have an excellent effect on all branches of Natural History— It is on this account that I venture to ask for your signature. The part he has published as an Appendix to the ‘Birds of the Colorado Valley’ merely takes in the “Faunal Publications” relating to N. American Ornithology.

In any case be so good as to return me both the enclosures, and if you can do so tomorrow pray address them to

44 Davies Street

Berkeley Square

London, W

whither I am now going for a few days.4

I am very sorry Frank’s diffidence made him decline acting as Examiner in Botany— I am sure he would have done better than the man we have had to appoint in his place will do.5 With kindest regards to all, believe me | Yours very truly | Alfred Newton


William Henry Flower and Thomas Henry Huxley had evidently signed a memorial in support of allowing Elliott Coues to travel to England to complete his work on an ornithological bibliography.
The first part of Coues’s universal bibliography of ornithology (‘List of faunal publications relating to North American ornithology’) had been published as an appendix to his Birds of the Colorado Valley (Coues 1878, pp. 567–784). Coues published four more instalments of his bibliography between 1878 and 1880, but much of his work remained in manuscript (J. A. Allen 1909, pp. 413–15). His fourth instalment comprised titles relating to the birds of Great Britain, but it seems unlikely that Coues travelled to England; in the preface, dated 20 January 1880, he mentioned the difficulties of access in America to certain British books (Coues 1880, p. 360).
Osbert Salvin.
This was the address of Newton’s brother Robert Milnes Newton (Post Office London directory 1878).
Francis Darwin had been asked to allow himself to be nominated as an examiner in botany at Cambridge University (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 March 1879). Francis later changed his mind, but the post had already been given to another person, who has not been identified (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 March [1879] and nn. 3 and 4). He would have been one of the eight official examiners appointed for 1879, none of whom had specialised botanical expertise (Cambridge University Reporter, 25 March 1879, pp. 474–5).


Allen, J. A. 1909. Biographical memoir of Elliott Coues 1842–1899. National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs 6: 397–446.

Coues, Elliott. 1880. Fourth installment of ornithological bibliography: being a list of faunal publications relating to British birds. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 2 (1879): 359–477. (Introduction dated 5 January 1880.)

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


Asks CD to join W. H. Flower and Huxley in signing a memorial in support of Dr Coues. He is a U.S. Army surgeon who has been working on an ornithological bibliography and needs support to complete his work in England.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Newton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Magdalene College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 172: 52
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11965,” accessed on 25 October 2021,