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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Gerard Krefft   22 October 1874

Australian | Museum | Curators’ office | 51 William st

October 22d 1874

Dear Mr Darwin

I have been forcibly ejected from my quarters in the Museum by order of some of the Trustees who desired to be revenged because I proved them a pack of imposters1 The whole story is too long to be told at present   let it suffice therefore when I inform you that without a moments notice I was pounced upon and with my servants and visitors including my little boy I was dragged out of my house & put into the street. Two doors were broken to pieces to get at me and a couple of price fighters were employed to do the deed   Acting under legal advice I did not resist more than was necessary and I was carried out bodily on the chair I was sitting on till the burden became to heavy for the men & they dropped me.—

My wife2 (of Scotch descent but born of free parents in this Country of rogues and vagabonds) had rushed off to the Colonial Secretarys office to tell Mr Parkes what was about to take place

Mr P would not believe it, said it could not be done but it was done after all!

The Government appointed me at the recommendation of the Trustees and being appealed to by that body to sanction my dismissal they (the Government) refused to do so   The Trustees then got very angry & took the law into their own hands defying the Government   They did not and could not apply for a writ of ejectment & they simply signed an order to some man to put the late Curator his family & goods & Chattels out! They retained, however, all my papers books & furniture they retained my medals and orders opened all drawers and ran riot over the place a fellow named Edward S Hill, brother in law to Sir Daniel Cooper Bart. was the executing officer3   Hill is a butcher by trade and manages Sir Daniel Coopers affairs here he is a member of the Board & on their authority he did all these things. It is difficult to get justice done & having no money I may have to drop the law suit I have commenced against these men.—

If I had acted against the wish of the Govt. I would not complain but as I took the advice of the Col Sectry on the matter who through his under Sectry told me to remain in my quarters I am at a loss to conceive how I could be put to all the trouble and distress I have suffered.—4 The most curious part of the matter is that there was a Constable in Charge of the premises & that when the doors were broken open & I was assaulted by Hill and his pricefighters this guardian of the peace shrugged his shoulders like the gentleman in your “Emotions” saying as far as I could conjecture “non possumus5 The Police is under the Col Sectys directions and I was rather surprised that such non-intervention should have been sanctioned. Everybody tells me that I could have “settled” every man who crossed my threshold but you know what a mess a person gets into who kills a fellow creature. I am told that heavy damages await me that I shall return to my old home and be comforted but I can assure you that I have become so disgusted with the people for whose instruction I sacrificed the best years of my life that I am determined to leave the Colony as soon as I can muster sufficient funds to go elsewhere.6 It is a hard thing to leave such a collection behind as I brought together and it will take my successor a long time to understand it because no man with a grain of honor in his composition would ever accept the place after I leave it

Will you kindly do what you can in my interest I am only one against many and you know that law is expensive and only made for the rich   Had I been an Englishman by birth had I humbugged people, attended at Church and spread knowledge on the principle that the God of Moses and of the Prophets made “little apples” I would have gained the day but a true believer in the theory of developement I am hounded down in this Paradies of Bushrangers’ of rogues Cheats and Vagabonds

and I remain | dear Mr Darwin | ever truly yours | Gerard Krefft


Krefft was curator and secretary of the Australian Museum, Sydney. After several clashes between Krefft and the trustees, including one in 1873 in which he was accused of stealing specimens of gold from the museum, a Legislative Assembly select committee inquiry recommended his dismissal in 1874. Krefft appealed to Henry Parkes to send the attorney-general or another minister to the monthly meetings of trustees. No minister was sent to a subsequent special meeting of the trustees, which set up a subcommittee to inquire into Krefft’s behaviour. Its twelve charges included drunkenness and disobedience. He was forcibly ejected from the premises in late August 1874. (Aust. dict. biog.)
Krefft refers to Edward Smith Hill. Daniel Cooper was a wealthy merchant and landowner, and first speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.
Parkes was colonial secretary of New South Wales; his principal under-secretary was Henry Halloran (Colonial Office list 1874).
In Expression, pp. 264–72, CD discussed shrugging of shoulders; the shrugging habits of a gentleman of French descent and his daughter were described on pp. 265–7 (see also Correspondence vol. 19, letter from F. S. B. F. de Chaumont to W. E. Darwin, 11 March 1871). Non possumus (Latin): we cannot (a statement expressing inability to do something).
Krefft failed to find new employment after his dismissal. His financial difficulties meant that he could not leave Australia, and he died there in 1881. (Aust. dict. biog.)


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Colonial Office list: The Colonial Office list … or, general register of the colonial dependencies of Great Britain. London: Edward Stanford; Harrison & Sons. 1862–99.

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

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


After a conflict with the Museum’s trustees, he has been brutally evicted from his home and office. Plans to leave Australia and asks CD’s help.

Letter details

Letter no.
Johann Louis Gerard (Gerard) Krefft
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Australian Museum, Sydney
Source of text
DAR 169: 123
Physical description
ALS 16pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9694,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22