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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Gladstone   23 October 1877


Oct 23. 77.

My dear Sir

I thank you sincerely for your kindness and accept with thanks your offer to send me the Numbers of Kosmos.2 I am very glad that you are personally giving attention to the subject.3

It would be great presumption in me to pass any judgment on the physiological question though the interest attaching to it might seduce me into such an error. But I was led to touch the subject simply in the character of an anxious student of the text of Homer: and it occurred to me that I might assist more scientific inquirers by collecting together the large number of facts bearing upon the question which the Poems supply. Qualifications or exceptions may be offered on a few points but I think the evidence is conclusive that Homers discrimination of colour was as defective as his sense of form and of motion was exact and lively4

With many thanks I remain | Faithfully yours | WE Gladstone

Should you dispatch those Numbers on receipt, my address will be

Coollattin | Shillelagh | Ireland.5

About Nov. 10 I expect to return to Hawarden6


Kilruddery was the country house of William Brabazon, eleventh earl of Meath, near Bray, county Wicklow, Ireland. Gladstone visited Ireland from 17 October to 12 November 1877, during which time he stayed with Brabazon (who had been a Liberal MP), as well as other Anglo-Irish families in county Wicklow (ODNB).
See letter to W. E. Gladstone, 2 October 1877. CD had offered to send copies of Kosmos containing articles on colour vocabulary and colour perception.
Some notes by CD on the difficulty young children have in distinguishing colours had been appended to the German translation of his ‘Biographical sketch of an infant’ (Kosmos 1 (1877): 367–76).
Coollatin, near Shillelagh, county Wicklow, was the Irish country seat of the Liberal politician William Thomas Spencer Wentworth Fitzwilliam, sixth Earl Fitzwilliam.
Gladstone’s country residence was Hawarden Castle in Flintshire, Wales.


‘Biographical sketch of an infant’: A biographical sketch of an infant. By Charles Darwin. Mind 2 (1877): 285–94. [Shorter publications, pp. 409–16.]

Gladstone, William Ewart. 1858. Studies on Homer and the Homeric age. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gladstone, William Ewart. 1877. The colour-sense. Nineteenth Century 2: 366–88.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Accepts CD’s offer to send numbers of Kosmos.

WEG thinks the evidence from Homer’s text is conclusive that his "discrimination of colour was as defective as his sense of form and of motion was exact and lively".

Letter details

Letter no.
William Ewart Gladstone
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 165: 50
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11202,” accessed on 27 October 2021,