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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; treasurer of Royal Society
Sent from
Source of text
The Royal Society (Sa: 389)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1550,” accessed on 22 January 2020,

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