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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Alfred Newton   29 October [1865]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Oct. 29

My dear Sir

As I have always held, if you will permit me to say so, a very friendly feeling & respect towards you, it is with sincere regret, I may say with pain, that I feel I cannot give you a testimonial for the intended Professorship, of which I had not previously heard;1 for in my opinion in the present state of Zoological Science it would be indispensable that a teacher should have especially studied comparative anatomy & Histology, & likewise have attended much to the invertebrate animals which exhibit such different types of structure.

If I am not mistaken, you have not published on these subjects, & have chiefly attended to Birds, including their habits, instincts, distrubution and other such philosophical points.2 I do not suppose my testimonial would be of much value, & with not a few members of the University it wd be absolutely injurious, nevertheless it would have been a great satisfaction to me to have given you a testimonial, had it been in my power.

Pray believe me | my dear Sir | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


A full bibliography of Newton’s publications, all of which were on ornithological subjects, is contained in the appendix to A. F. R. Wollaston 1921.


Wollaston, Alexander Frederick Richmond. 1921. Life of Alfred Newton, professor of comparative anatomy, Cambridge University, 1866–1907. With a preface by Sir Archibald Geikie. London: John Murray.


Declines writing testimonial for AN for the Cambridge Professorship in Zoology. The post requires expertise in comparative anatomy and histology, whereas AN’s work is on habits and colours of birds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Newton
Sent from
Source of text
Cambridge University Library (MS Add. 9839/1D/56)
Physical description
4pp & Adraft 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4926,” accessed on 25 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13