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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Down School Board   19 December 1873

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Dec. 19. 1873


As the state of my health prevents my attendance at the Board, I hope that you will allow me to express my opinion on the question which you have to decide. It would be, to the best of my judgment, a kind & useful act, if you permit the School-house to be used in the evenings as a Reading Room for the inhabitants of our village.1

It is the object & desire of our Board to have the children instructed; & if their fathers take advantage of the room to read newspapers or books, it will strengthen the children in their desire to profit by their lessons. Some good authorities, indeed, think that the present great want in England, as far as education is concerned, is some encouragement to the young to continue instructing themselves after they have left school; for it is notorious that they often forget what they have learnt. The working men of this country have so few amusements, beyond the brutish one of drinking, that even if the Reading Room be looked at merely as a place of amusement, it is desirable to grant them the use of it; & I am positively informed that some of the men were formerly in the habit of reading. Although I cannot say how Sir John Lubbock if present, would have voted, I feel sure, from many conversations with him, that no man desires more earnestly than he does, to afford every possible opportunity to the working class for self-improvement & amusement.

It has been said, as I am informed, that the men who formerly attended the Reading Room, used it for gambling & drinking. I hope that the members of our Board, with a true English spirit of fair-play for the men thus accused, will allow persons who have had the means of observation, to come forward as witnesses & declare what they have seen & know.

I have the honour to remain | Gentleman | your obedient servant | Charles R. Darwin

To the Members of the | Down School Board


For more on the dispute concerning the use of the schoolroom as a reading room, see the letter from E. F. Lubbock to Emma Darwin, [c. 29 November 1873] and n. 2, and the letter to the Down School Board, [after 29 November 1873].


Expresses his opinion that the Board should allow the school hall to be used as a reading room in the evenings by the villagers of Down.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Bromley Central Library, Local Studies Library and Archives (P/123/25/3/1/4)
Physical description
4pp & A draftS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9185,” accessed on 24 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21