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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Lubbock   8 April 1875

2 Bryanston St.— Portman Sq.

April 8th. 1875

My dear Sir John

You are quite right in believing that I never had any intention to slight Mr. Ffinden; nor have I slighted him.1

When I wrote to the Privy Council I had never heard of the rule that School Boards should correspond solely through the Chairman; but I cannot believe that a parishioner may not independently ask a question with respect to a subject not as yet brought before a School Board, or a voluntary Committee, as in our case.2 Had this been the rule, I should either have received a reprimand or been answered through the Chairman.

The affair about the repairs is simply ridiculous. I sent a message to Mr. Town, asking him to complete the repairs as soon as possible, that the room might be used, and was told that they would cost £5.3 I assumed, but without making any enquiry, that this higher estimate had been agreed on, and when Mr. T. sent me his bill for £5, I told him to apply to the School Committee. After a considerable interval he informed me that only £4 had been paid; and then I learnt, for the first time, that I had ordered repairs beyond the agreement, and of course immediately paid the extra £1 myself.—4 This happened several weeks ago.

It is very good of you to endeavour to restore peace in the village, and you are at full liberty to say that I had never any intention of showing any disrespect to Mr. Ffinden; but I cannot apologise, for I do not think any apology is due on my part.

Mr. Ffinden accused me in the vestry of having made false statements, and when asked what they were, answered that I said that the Schoolroom had been previously lent as a Reading Room for one year less than had really occurred: so that I merely understated my grounds for repeating the request. On the following day he wrote officially to Mrs. Darwin, and again affirmed that I had made several mistatements.5 This is conduct which a man does not commonly pass over without some sort of apology.— Nevertheless if Mr. Ffinden bows to Mrs. Darwin or myself we will return it; but I fear under present circumstances that we can take no further step.

I have troubled you with a very long letter on this paltry affair. | My dear Sir John | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin


See letter from John Lubbock, 5 April [1875]. In 1873, the Darwins and the Lubbocks were involved in a dispute with George Sketchley Ffinden over the use of the Down schoolroom as a winter reading room; see Correspondence vol. 21, letter to Down School Board, [after 29 November 1873].
CD’s letter to the Privy Council has not been found. However, see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from G. S. Ffinden to Emma Darwin, 24 December 1873, in which CD is said to have ‘addressed the Education Department’.
Daniel Town was a carpenter in Down.
CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS) record a payment to Town of £1 on 9 March 1875.


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


Writes regarding local difficulties concerning Down School and the setting up of a reading-room; his strained relationship with G. S. ffinden following some misunderstanding.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Lubbock, 4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury
Sent from
London, Bryanston St, 2
Source of text
DAR 146: 129
Physical description
C 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9920,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23