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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John George Children    21 February 1838

British Museum

21st. Feby. 1838.

Dear Sir,

I take the liberty of troubling you with a Copy of a Letter addressed to the Trustees of the British Museum by a Mr. Edward Blyth,1 in which he accuses Mr. Geo. R. Gray of gross incivility and uncourteous conduct in the exectution of his official duties, as one of the Assistants in the Zoological Department in this Institution.—2

The Trustees have directed me to examine into the allegations contained in Mr. Blyth’s Letter,3 and, therefore, as you have sometimes had occasion to consult the Collections more immediately the subject of Mr. Geo. Gray’s duties, I request the favour of you to inform me, whether you have found the general tenor of his conduct courteous, or otherwise, and whether, from what you have yourself experienced, you think him capable or not of such behaviour as is attributed to him by Mr. Blyth?

The unpleasant duty imposed on me by the Trustees, and justice to both parties, induces me to trouble you with this application, an early answer to which will much oblige, | Dear Sir, | Your’s faithfully | (signed)—. John Geo. Children

Circular to

Drs. Richardson

— Andw. Smith

Messrs. Darwin | Yarrell | Audubon | Gould | Turner—4


Edward Blyth, at the time a druggist in Tooting, had published several papers on British zoology and, with others, was preparing a new edition of Georges Cuvier’s Animal kingdom, which appeared in 1840.
George Robert Gray, an assistant in the zoological department of the British Museum, had undertaken the completion of Birds when John Gould left for Australia in 1838 (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to G. R. Gray, [20 November–11 December 1840]). He had joined the staff of the British Museum in 1831.
Children, keeper of the zoology department of the British Museum, was senior to Gray.
John Richardson, Andrew Smith, William Yarrell, John James Audubon, and John Gould were all prominent ornithologists who had had occasion to use the British Museum’s collection of birds, curated by Gray. Turner has not been identified.


In view of the charges directed by Edward Blyth against George R. Gray for gross incivility and discourtesy in discharging his duties as assistant in the zoological department at the British Museum, CD is asked by the Trustees to comment upon his own experience with Gray and to offer his judgment of these charges.

Letter details

Letter no.
John George Children
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
British Museum
Source of text
Natural History Museum (Archives, Zoology department,
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 402B,” accessed on 9 July 2020,

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