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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Roderick Impey Murchison1   19 June [1858]2

Down,

June 19th [1858].

I have just received your note. Unfortunately I cannot attend at the British Museum on Monday.3 I do not suppose my opinion on the subject of your note can be of any value, as I have not much considered the subject, or had the advantage of discussing it with other naturalists. But my impression is, that there is much weight in what you say about not breaking up the natural history collection of the British Museum. I think a national collection ought to be in London. I can, however, see that some weighty arguments might be advanced in favour of Kew, owing to the immense value of Sir W. Hooker’s collection and library; but these are private property, and I am not aware that there is any certainty of their always remaining at Kew. Had this been the case, I should have thought that the botanical collection might have been removed there without endangering the other branches of the collections. But I think it would be the greatest evil which could possibly happen to natural science in this country if the other collections were ever to be removed from the British Museum and Library.4

Footnotes

The letter was published in 1859 by Roderick Impey Murchison as part of his campaign to keep the natural history collections of the British Museum in Bloomsbury. See letter to J. D. Hooker,30 March 1859.
The date as given by Francis Darwin. It is confirmed by the reference to the possibility of the natural history collections being moved from the British Museum (see n. 3, below).
Murchison, a trustee of the British Museum, had initiated a petition to be circulated among naturalists for their signature. The memorial voiced a strong protest against moving the natural history collections away from the British Museum site in Bloomsbury. The possible relocation of the natural history collections had been discussed in Parliament earlier in the year and was a plan partly encouraged by Richard Owen, superintendent of the natural history collections (R. S. Owen 1894, 2: 29–30). The memorial, with CD’s signature, was presented to George Alexander Hamilton at the Treasury Chambers on 19 July 1858 (see Correspondence vol.7, Appendix VI).
See also letters to T. H. Huxley, 23 October [1858] and 3 November [1858], and to J. D. Hooker, 29 [October 1858] and 2 November [1858].

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Owen, Richard Startin. 1894. The life of Richard Owen … With the scientific portions revised by C. Davies Sherborn; also an essay on Owen’s position in anatomical science by the Right Hon. T. H. Huxley, F.R.S. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Summary

There is much weight in what RIM says about not breaking up the natural history collection of the British Museum. The botanical collection might be moved to Kew, but CD thinks "it would be the greatest evil which could possibly happen to natural science in this country if the other collections were ever to be removed from the British Museum and Library".

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-2286
From
Charles Robert Darwin
To
Roderick Impey Murchison, 1st baronet
Sent from
Down
Source of text
More Letters 1: 109–10

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2286,” accessed on 23 October 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-2286.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7

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