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Darwin Correspondence Project

From R. B. Sharpe   23 November [1874]1

British Museum

Novr. 23rd. 1871.

Dear Mr. Darwin,

I do not know if the news of Dr. Gray’s resignation has reached you but he has now retired from the head of this department and will no doubt be succeeded by Dr. Günther.2 I am reccommended for the vacancy by several ornithologists and zoologists and I believe that most of my colleagues on the continent will support me. I have received assurances from Sclater, Newton Gould3 and others and also from some of the officers in the Museum, so that my chance is most favourable.

On the last occasion of my candidature here, although I was successful, I very much regretted that Salvin was before me with so many of my friends, and particularly I regretted not being able to apply to you, who have always been so kind to me.4 I am not aware of any other candidate for the post at present, and therefore I shall value most highly any testimonial you can send me with regard to my ornithological works, my papers the Kingfishers and especially the catalogue of accipitres just published by the Trustees.5

Believe me, | dear Mr. Darwin | Very sincerely yours | R Bowdler Sharpe


Sharpe dated his letter ‘1871’, but the content indicates that it was written in 1874.
John Edward Gray’s resignation as keeper of the zoological department of the British Museum was formally accepted in December 1874, but he stopped work in November owing to ill health. Albert Günther was appointed to the post on 6 February 1874. See A. E. Gunther 1975, pp. 166 and 330.
Philip Lutley Sclater, Alfred Newton, and John Gould.
Sharpe had been appointed a senior assistant at the British Museum in 1872; he refers to Osbert Salvin.
Sharpe had published, in parts, a monograph on kingfishers (Sharpe 1868–71), and produced the first volume of the catalogue of the birds in the British Museum, which was on the Accipitres, or diurnal birds of prey (Sharpe 1874).


Sharpe, Richard Bowdler. 1868–71. A monograph of the Alcedinidae: or, family of kingfishers. London: the author.

Sharpe, Richard Bowdler. 1874. Catalogue of the Accipitres, or diurnal birds of prey, in the collection of the British Museum. London: Printed by order of the Trustees.


RBS seeks a testimonial from CD; he is applying for the British Museum vacancy left by J. E. Gray’s resignation and A. Günther’s promotion.

Letter details

Letter no.
Richard Bowdler Sharpe
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
British Museum
Source of text
DAR 177: 144
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9730,” accessed on 28 March 2020,

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