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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. L. Brunton   17 December 1881

4 Bryanston St. | Portman Sqre.

Dec 17. 1881. Sat.

(Private) | (I remain here until Monday evng.)

Dear Dr. Lauder Brunton

I have been thinking a good deal about the suggestion which you made to me the other day, on the supposition that you could not get some man like the Pres. of the Coll. of Physicians to accept the office.1 My wife is strongly opposed to my accepting the office, as she feels sure that the anxiety thus caused would tell heavily on my health. But there is a much stronger objection suggested to me by one of my relations, namely no man ought to allow himself to be placed at the head (though only nominally so) of an associated movement, unless he has the means of judging of the acts performed by the association, after hearing each point discussed.2 This occurred to me when you spoke to me, & I think that I said something to this effect: anyhow I have in several analogous cases acted on this principle—

Take for instance any preliminary statement which the Assoc. may publish; I might feel grave doubts about the wisdom or justice of some points, & this solely from my not having heard them discussed. I am therefore inclined to think that it wd not be right in me to accept the nominal Presidency of your Association & thus have to act blindly.

As far as I can at present see, I fear that I must confine my assistance to subscribing as large a sum to the Assoc. as any member gives—3

I am sorry to trouble you, but I have thought it best to tell you at once of the doubts which have arisen in my mind.

Believe me | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin.


CD had evidently met with Brunton to discuss the possibility of becoming nominal president of the proposed Science Defence Association (see letter from T. L. Brunton, 27 November 1881). The Darwins were in London from 13 to 20 December 1881 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). William Jenner was president of the Royal College of Physicians.
CD was staying with his daughter Henrietta Emma Litchfield and her husband, Richard Buckley Litchfield. One of them was probably the relation who advised him.
No record of a payment has been found in CD’s Account books.


Feels he should decline nominal presidency of the proposed Science Defence Association.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Lauder Brunton, 1st baronet
Sent from
London, Bryanston St, 4
Source of text
DAR 160: 352
Physical description
C 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13558,” accessed on 2 March 2024,