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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alfred Newton   9 April 1869

Magd: Coll: Cambridge

9 April 1869.

My dear Sir,

Mr J. W. Clark who lately met your son Mr. George Darwin in Paris tells me from him you had some kind intention of helping us in our troubles, I therefore take the liberty of sending you a copy of the appeal to the Members of the Senate which we have circulated.1

It was with very great regret that I heard that your son Frank was not successful in the Examination for the Trinity Scholarship—but it affords me much satisfaction to learn, as I have done today, that he acquitted himself very creditably—especially in the vivâ voce part of the examination.2 I believe that my regret is fully shared by nearly all the members of the University who take any interest in Natural History and I sincerely trust he may try his luck next year to find that he is a favoured being in this struggle for existence—

Believe me, my dear Sir, | Yours very truly | Alfred Newton

Charles Darwin, Esqre. M.A., F.R.S.



February 15, 1869.


We wish to draw your attention to the condition of the Museum of Zoology.

Want of funds has hitherto prevented the Museum Syndicate from fitting up this portion of the building: nor does it appear probable that they will, for many years at least, have sufficient money at their disposal to enable them to purchase the requisite cases and cabinets. The various collections, especially the Swainson collection, have suffered considerably from want of proper protection: the Strickland collection, which was presented to the University last year on the express understanding that cabinets should be provided for its reception with as little delay as possible, has not yet been unpacked: the Woodward collection of shells is very inconveniently located, and not displayed at all; and the Philosophical Society's collections remain in the same state as when they were presented to the University five years ago.3 It is manifest that it would be highly prejudicial to the interests of Natural Science, and would appear discreditable to the University, to allow the Museum of Zoology to remain thus neglected any longer.

Under these circumstances, we appealed last year to the Colleges, with the approval of the Museum Syndicate, to subscribe out of their corporate funds a sum of £500, which we then thought would be sufficient to provide cabinets for the Swainson and Strickland collections. They have contributed only £385, and at the same time we find that we understated the sum required: as we were unable, at the time we made that statement, to do more than obtain a very rough estimate of the probable cost of the fittings and of the collateral expenses.

We now find that we shall require at least £800 to do the work thoroughly.

We are therefore compelled to appeal to the liberality of individual members of the University, who have already, on more than one occasion, generously subscribed towards supplying the wants of the Museum, in the hope that they will come to our assistance, and enable us to place this portion of the collections under our charge in a condition worthy of the University.

ALFRED NEWTON, | Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy.

J. W. CLARK, | Superintendent of the Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy.

The following subscriptions have been already received:----

£ s. d The Chancellor4 . . . . . . . . .20 0 0 The Vice-Chancellor5 . . . . . . . 10 0 0 The Master of Trinity6 . . . . . . 10 10 0 The Master of Jesus7 . . . . . . . 5 0 0 Professor Lightfoot8 . . . . . . .10 0 0 Professor Kingsley9 . . . . . . . .5 0 0 Professor Birkbeck10 . . . . . . . .2 2 0 A. A. VanSittart, Esq., Trinity College11 . .10 0 0 Rev. R. Burn, Trinity College12 . . . . .10 0 0 Rev. T. G. Bonney, S. John's College13 . . . 5 0 0 L. Ewbank, Esq., Clare College14 . . . . .5 0 0

Subscriptions may be paid to Mr J. W. Clark, Trinity College, or to his account with Messrs Mortlock.15


Newton refers to John Willis Clark and George Howard Darwin. The Senate was the governing body of the University of Cambridge.
Francis Darwin was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Newton refers to Samuel Pickworth Woodward’s mollusc collection and William Swainson’s collection of bird skins. Hugh Edwin Strickland’s collection of bird skins was originally donated to Oxford University, but moved to the University of Cambridge in 1867 (ODNB). The Cambridge Philosophical Society donated its natural history collections to the university in 1865 (A. R. Hall 1969, p. 28).
William Cavendish.
Edward Atkinson.
William Hepworth Thompson.
George Elwes Corrie.
Joseph Barber Lightfoot.
Charles Kingsley.
William Lloyd Birkbeck.
Augustus Arthur VanSittart.
Robert Burn.
Thomas George Bonney.
Lucas Ewbank.
Mortlock’s, bankers to the University of Cambridge, was currently headed by Edmund John Mortlock.


Hall, Alfred Rupert. 1969. The Cambridge Philosophical Society: a history, 1819–1969. Cambridge: Cambridge Philosophical Society.

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.


Regrets Frank [Darwin] did not pass the Trinity scholarship examination, but he hears Frank did well on the viva voce part.

Pleased CD is willing to help the University’s Museum of Zoology; he encloses the printed appeal.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Newton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Magdalene College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 172: 47
Physical description
2pp enc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6694,” accessed on 26 February 2020,

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