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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Darwin   26 [November 1869 or later]1


Dear Charles

I was talking to Sylvester yesterday and he asked ‘has your nephew a great liking for the army, has he a fancy for it, ah well or it is quite a pity that he does not leave it & go to Cambridge   he’d be certain to become a fellow—2 I’nt that a compliment considering that the summum bonum3 of this life might be obtained—

His opponent he said (Cardew?) was a regular genius & might become anything—a nephew of Ld Westbury—4   he’ll have to go into F Galton’s list as well as Lenny who I see has already a niche in the temple of Fame5

Yours aff | E D


The date range is established by the reference to Galton 1869, published in mid-November 1869 (Publisher’s Circular (1869): 791); see n. 5, below.
James Joseph Sylvester was a professor at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, where Leonard Darwin was a student. Erasmus Darwin also refers to the University of Cambridge.
Summum bonum: the highest good.
Philip Cardew passed first into the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, 1868 (ODNB); Leonard Darwin passed second (see Correspondence vol. 16). Cardew’s mother was the second daughter of Richard Bethell, first Baron Westbury; Lord Westbury was lord chancellor from 1861 to 1865 (ODNB).
In Francis Galton’s Hereditary genius: an inquiry into its laws and consequences, Leonard was mentioned as coming second in the 1868 examination for the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (Galton 1869, p. 209).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Galton, Francis. 1869. Hereditary genius: an inquiry into its laws and consequences. London: Macmillan.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Has seen J. J. Sylvester again.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 105: B66
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6539,” accessed on 29 May 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17