skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alfred Newton   27 November 1866

Magd: Coll: | Cambridge.

27 Novr. 1866.

My dear Sir,

Pray accept my sincere thanks for the copy of your new edition which you have been so kind as to send me.1 I should take it as a very great compliment that you have thus honoured me—were it not that I feel I owe the gift much more to your own good nature which prompts you to recognize the insignificant efforts of the humblest followers of natural science, than to any other cause—

I have had great pleasure in making (through my colleague Profr. Humphry) the acquaintance of your son at Trinity—2 So far as regards the rewards given at present by the University it is perhaps well that his studies should be directed elsewhere—but I hope these will not in future occupy all his attention—3

You will I am sure be glad to hear that my lectures have been much better attended than I had any reason to hope, and that the study of Zoology seems to be not merely popularly but scientifically pursued among the Undergraduates—4

Trusting that your health will permit you with all speed to finish the great work we have been so long expecting,5 | I remain, my dear Sir, With very great respect, | Yrs. most truly | Alfred Newton

C. Darwin, Esqre.


Newton refers to the fourth edition of Origin.
George Murray Humphry was professor of human anatomy at Cambridge (DNB). George Howard Darwin was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge (Alum. Cantab.).
Newton is probably alluding to the fact that George was studying mathematics rather than natural sciences which, at the time, was still a fledgling tripos within the university (see n. 4, below). George was considering a career as an engineer and had discussed the topic with CD’s friend, Edward Cresy, a civil engineer (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to Edward Cresy, 7 September [1865] and n. 2, and letter from Edward Cresy, 18 October 1865 and n. 4).
Newton was the first holder of the newly created professorship of zoology and comparative anatomy at Cambridge University (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from Alfred Newton, 27 October 1865 and n. 1, and A. F. R. Wollaston 1921, p. 133).
Newton refers to Variation, which was published in 1868.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Wollaston, Alexander Frederick Richmond. 1921. Life of Alfred Newton, professor of comparative anatomy, Cambridge University, 1866–1907. With a preface by Sir Archibald Geikie. London: John Murray.


Thanks for new edition of Origin [4th ed.].

Has met CD’s son [George] at Trinity College.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Newton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Magdalene College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 172: 46
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5285,” accessed on 19 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14