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Darwin Correspondence Project

From P. H. Pye-Smith   19 December 1881

56, Harley Street. | W.

Dec. 19. 1881

My dear Sir

I do not write to urge you to favour us with the article on “Vivisection” for “the 19th Century” which we asked before, though we should be none the less grateful for it, if you saw your way to it, for the month of February.1 But I write, first, to ask whom you would advise us to choose to write it from the purely Scientific stand-point, failing yourself. I have already applied to Mr Huxley and to Sir John Lubbock. Both are unable from press of other engagements to help.2 We (Burdon Sanderson, Michael Foster Brunton & myself) have thought among others of Mr Spottiswoode, Prof. Tyndall, Turner of Edinboro’ (I asked Flower before) and Fletcher-Moulton, the barrister.3 Can you suggest anyone better & especially anyone whom you could ask to do the task on your behalf?

Next, you are aware that the movement set on foot to defray Ferrier’s expenses in the recent prosecution, which you were so generously forward to join, has grown into a project for forming an Association, not only to meet any future attacks of the same kind on legitimate scientific inquiries, but to diffuse knowledge on the subject of physiological experiments among the public, and to watch the working of the Act, so as bring pressure to bear on the Home Office when needful.4

That it will be needful, an interview Mr Bowman Mr Lister & myself had with the Home Secretary (as a deputation from the International Medical Congress) left no doubt on my mind.5

Will you join this Association? We have already several eminent men of science & members of both Houses of parliament who will be ready to do so; and since the provisional Committee includes Mr Bowman & Sir Wm. Gull, the Pres. of the R. Coll of Surgeons & the late Pres. of the R. Coll of physicians, Dr A Clark Mr Lister & Dr Sanderson, you will see that you are not likely to be committed to any folly which the youthful impetuosity of Brunton or myself might bring about.6

As soon as the Association is formed we shall have to look about for a suitable President. I should like to propose your name, & none could be more welcome or appropriate. But Brunton tells me that he thinks you would prefer not: and your time & health & comfort are far too valuable to be sacrificed: so we will not urge you if you decline.7 There will be time enough for this however when our Association is launched.

While staying with Romanes in September I had the privilege of reading an early copy of your last work—on the worms. How wonderful it is that you have such boundless capacity for work. Thank God you seem as energetic and “geistreich” as when you wrote your famous book on Coral islands.8

I heard lately from Wallis Nash in Oregon. He has sent home to Moseley a perfect skeleton of Enhydra marina, which is now in the Hunterian Museum—9 You know perhaps that their child born in their new home was named after yourself.10

I am, dear Sir, | Yours with the deepest respect & esteem | P H Pye-Smith.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Pagets article’11 pencil


CD had been asked to contribute an article on vivisection to the monthly magazine Nineteenth Century in August 1881 (see letter from G. J. Romanes, 31 August 1881 and n. 4). He had declined, although he offered to allow parts of his earlier letter to The Times on vivisection to be quoted (see letter to G. J. Romanes, 2 September 1881 and n. 2).
Thomas Henry Huxley had become an inspector of fisheries in January 1881, in addition to his academic post (see letter to T. H. Huxley, 7 January 1881). John Lubbock was head of the family bank as well as being an MP and president of the Linnean Society.
John Scott Burdon Sanderson, Michael Foster, Thomas Lauder Brunton, and Pye-Smith were members of the Physiological Society committee set up to consider the vivisection issue (for more on the committee, see the letter from G. J. Romanes, 31 August 1881 and n. 4). Pye-Smith also refers to William Spottiswoode, John Tyndall, William Turner, William Henry Flower, and John Fletcher Moulton.
David Ferrier had been charged with violating the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act (see letter to T. L. Brunton, 19 November 1881 and n. 1).
William Bowman, Joseph Lister, and Pye-Smith were members of the executive committee of the International Medical Congress that was held in London from 2 to 9 August 1881 (Transactions of the International Medical Congress 1881 1: xxxi). The home secretary was William Vernon Harcourt.
William Withey Gull. Erasmus Wilson was president of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1881. James Risdon Bennett was president of the Royal College of Physicians from 1876 to 1880. Andrew Clark was CD’s physician.
See letter to T. L. Brunton, 17 December 1881. CD told Brunton he could not accept the offer to become nominal president of the proposed association.
George John Romanes had reviewed Earthworms, so received an early copy. His review appeared in Nature, 13 October 1881 (G. J. Romanes 1881b). Geistreich: witty, ingenious (German). Coral reefs was published in 1842.
Wallis Nash had lived in Down before emigrating to Oregon in 1879 (see K. G. V. Smith and Dimick 1976, pp. 78–9). Henry Nottidge Moseley had travelled along the west coast of the United States in 1877. Enhydra marina (a synonym of E. lutris) is the sea otter; it was native to the northern and eastern Pacific Rim; on the west coast of North America it ranged from the Baja Peninsula to Alaska. Pye-Smith also refers to the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
Louis Darwin Nash was born on 7 June 1880 (U.S., World War I draft registration cards, 1917–1918 (, accessed 13 October 2020)).
CD’s annotation is a note for his reply, which has not been found. James Paget, Richard Owen, and Samuel Wilks had each written essays under the collective title, ‘Vivisection, its pains and uses’ for the Nineteenth Century (J. Paget et al. 1881).


Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

Earthworms: The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1881.

Paget, James, et al. 1881. Vivisection: its pains and uses. [Three essays.] Nineteenth Century 10: 920–48.

Romanes, George John. 1881e. Mr. Darwin on the work of worms. [Review of Earthworms.] Nature, 13 October 1881, pp. 553–6.

Smith, Kenneth G. V. and Dimick, R. E. 1976. Darwin’s ‘American’ neighbour. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 8 (1976–8): 78–82.

Transactions of the International Medical Congress 1881: Transactions of the International Medical Congress, seventh session, held in London, August 2d to 9th, 1881. Prepared under the direction of William MacCormac. 4 vols. London: J. W. Klockmann. 1881.


Urges CD to write on vivisection for Nineteenth Century or suggest a competent scientific author. Forming an association to forward interests of vivisectionists.

Letter details

Letter no.
Philip Henry Pye-Smith
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Harley St, 56
Source of text
DAR 174: 82
Physical description
ALS 6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13566,” accessed on 15 April 2024,