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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Lawson Tait   4 August [1876]1


Aug 4

My Dear Sir,

We have a Natural History Society here of about 300 members and which after a struggling existence for nearly 20 years is blooming into something worthy of so large a town.2 I am President and there is amongst us a numerous band of your disciples. I should very much like to have your permission to add your name to our list of Honorary Members, not that this would be any compliment to you, but that the presence of your name in our list would add to our importance.

I sent you a little attempt of mine the other day, an effort to apply Evolution to moral life.3 Do you think that I have been in any way successful?

I have not read Rudinger’s book yet, I have been so busy with other matters but I shall return it as soon as I have.4 I intend going into the polydactytism question now.5 I have had a talk with Dr Burdon Sanderson6 about it and he has given me a valuable hint.

Yours faithfully, | Lawson Tait


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Lawson Tait, 28 March 1876.
The Birmingham Natural History Society was formed in 1858 and started publishing its proceedings in 1879 (Proceedings of the Birmingham Philosophical Society). Tait was president of the society in 1876 and 1884 (Plarr 1930).
Tait’s essay ‘Evolution of our moral life’ appeared in the Birmingham Examiner in August 1876 (L. Tait 1876c); he later published an essay on the evolution of moral life in Two essays on the law of evolution (L. Tait 1885).
CD had sent a copy of Nicolaus R. Rüdinger’s unpublished essay on the regeneration of lost limbs in lower vertebrates to Tait (see letter to Lawson Tait, 28 March 1876; see also Correspondence vol. 23, letter from Anton Bachmaier, 4 February 1875).
John Scott Burdon Sanderson.


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

Plarr, Victor Gustave. 1930. Plarr’s lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Revised by Sir D’Arcy Power. 2 vols. London: Simpkin Marshall.

Tait, Lawson. 1885. Two essays on the law of evolution: I. The law of natural selection applied to man. II. The evolution of our moral life. Birmingham: Cornish Bros.


Wishes to make CD an Honorary Member of the Birmingham Natural History Society.

RLT has attempted [in a paper] to apply evolution to moral life.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Lawson (Lawson) Tait
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 34
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10570,” accessed on 21 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24