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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Frederic William Farrar   1 February [1866]1

Harrow. N.W.

Feb. 1.

Dear Sir,

I am about to make a request, which I must preface by asking you to pardon it, if it should seem presumptious.

I have been told by a gentleman of influence & position in the Royal Society—that my two works on Language, together with my contributions to Ethnology, constitute a sufficient justification to my offering myself as a candidate for admission into the Royal Society.2 The first book—The Origin of Language—was the earliest work devoted to that subject since the beginning of this century, & every succeeding writer has noticed it with approval—including both Prof Pott of Berlin, & Mons. Ernest Renan.3 The latter book you have done me the honour to read & approve.4

It is indeed very late to offer myself as the election takes place early in March, but if I am not taking too great a liberty in asking if you would be one of those who would, from general knowledge, sign my certificate, I cannot help thinking that your name alone would go far to secure my election.5

Once more offering my apologies if, in writing thus, I trespass too far on your indulgence, I remain, dear Sir, | Very faithfully your’s, | Frederic W Farrar.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to F. W. Farrar, 3 February [1866].
The two works on language were An essay on the origin of language (Farrar 1860) and Chapters on language (Farrar 1865). For Farrar’s contributions to ethnology, see, for example, Farrar 1857, 1864a, 1864b, 1864c, and 1864d. Farrar also wrote anonymously for the Anthropological Review; see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from F. W. Farrar, 6 November 1865 and n. 8.
Farrar refers to Farrar 1860, August Friedrich Pott, and Joseph-Ernest Renan. Farrar 1860 referred repeatedly to Renan’s work; Pott was also cited.
CD praised Farrar 1865 in his letter to Farrar of 2 November [1865] (Correspondence vol. 13). CD’s lightly annotated presentation copy of Farrar 1865 is in the Darwin Library–Down (see Marginalia 1: 226). CD later cited Farrar 1865 in Descent 1: 56 n.
For information on certificates and other details of election to fellowship of the Royal Society of London, see M. B. Hall 1984, especially p. 142. See also Lyons 1944, pp. 152–3, 272–8. Farrar was elected to fellowship of the Royal Society on 7 June 1866; CD, who was one of twenty signatories to Farrar’s certificate, specified that his support was based upon a general, rather than a personal, knowledge of Farrar’s work (Royal Society of London, certificates of election and candidature).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Farrar, Frederic William. 1857. The people of England. A lecture, delivered before the Harrow Literary Institution, October 13th, 1857. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts. Harrow: W. Winkley, Jun.

Farrar, Frederic William. 1860. An essay on the origin of language, based on modern researches, and especially on the works of M. Renan. London: John Murray.

Farrar, Frederic William. 1865. Chapters on language. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.

Hall, Marie Boas. 1984. All scientists now: the Royal Society in the nineteenth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lyons, Henry. 1944. The Royal Society 1660–1940: a history of its administration under its charters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.


Is seeking election to the Royal Society.

Letter details

Letter no.
Frederic William Farrar
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 36
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4993,” accessed on 16 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14