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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Phillips   21 January [1859]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Phillips

Your very kind letter, received yesterday, with its announcement has much surprised & pleased me.2 It would be superfluous to say how highly I feel the honour which the Council has conferred on me.3 I am astonished at it, for I am well aware how little I have done for many years for geology, having been incapacitated for any bodily fatigue.— This has been a great misfortune to me, for I honour from the bottom of my soul the noble science & its followers.— I will, of course, attend at the anniversary, if I possibly can, but my health is very uncertain & I never know what I can do the next day. In simple truth I cannot attend the Dinner. I assure you that most unwillingly I have been absolutely compelled to give up dining out with my nearest neighbours & friends, or receiving them at my own house. I could not sit out a public dinner. I am very sorry to appear ungracious, but this is the simple truth.—

Believe me that I am fully sensible of the very great honour, far more than I deserve, which the Council & you have done me. And with my cordial thanks for the extremely kind manner, with which you have communicated the fact to me

Pray believe me | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. It is a shame to trouble you, but will you have the kindness to send me one line to say, whether I have to return thanks for the Medal at the anniversary; Strangely I cannot, for the life of me, remember.—4


The year is given by the award of the Wollaston Medal to CD (see n. 3, below).
John Phillips’s letter has not been found. The letter announced that CD was to be awarded the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society at the forthcoming anniversary meeting. See also preceding letter.
The council’s resolution stated: ‘In conclusion, the Council have to state that they have awarded the Wollaston Medal to Charles Darwin, Esq., F.R.S., F.G.S., for his numerous contributions to Geological Science, more especially his observations on the Geology of South America, on the Phænomena of Volcanic Islands, on the structure and distribution of Coral-reefs, and his Monographs on recent and fossil Cirripedia’ (Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 15 (1859), Proceedings, p. ii).
It was customary for the recipient to acknowledge the award in person at the anniversary meeting of the Geological Society. However, CD was unable to attend the meeting on 18 February 1859: he asked Charles Lyell to accept the medal on his behalf. See letter to John Phillips, 8 February [1859].


Acknowledges the honour that the Council [of the Geological Society] have conferred upon him [award of Wollaston Medal]. Will attend the anniversary meeting if his health permits, but cannot attend the dinner.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Phillips
Sent from
Source of text
Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Geological collections)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2402,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

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