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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Edward Sabine   31 January [1854]

Down Farnborough Kent

Jan. 31st

My dear Sir

I must consider the request you make me as a very high compliment,1 but several reasons lead me to wish to decline it. In the first place (& this alone would suffice) I should not do it at all well, for I have no particular taste for criticism or for attempting biography; & I should not, consequently, do it with gusto. Moreover I could not conscientiously rank Von Buch so high as the world at large does, though certainly some of his descriptions are models in that line; & this would make the task, even if easy in itself, very difficult for me, & disagreeable to anyone holding my opinions.— I am, also, a slow worker, & have heaps of my own half-worked out materials; & I think I should do better by plodding on in my own line, than by attempting a quite new field of literature & the History of a Branch of Science.—

I fear I must have wearied you with the superfluity of my reasons for not most willingly accepting that which in the eyes of many, I do not doubt, would be considered as a high priviledge.

Pray forgive me & believe me | Your’s very sincerely | C. Darwin


Sabine, treasurer of the Royal Society, had asked CD provide an obituary notice of Christian Leopold von Buch, who had died 4 March 1853.


Declines the honour of writing a biography of Leopold von Buch, on grounds that he would not do it well; nor does he hold Buch so high as the world at large does.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Edward Sabine
Sent from
Source of text
The Royal Society (Sa: 389)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1550,” accessed on 30 June 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5