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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. J. Romanes   2 December 1877

18 Cornwall Terrace:

Dec. 2, 1877.

It was most kind of you to write me such a long and glowing letter.1 In one way it is a good thing that all the world are not so big-hearted as yourself—it would make young men awfully conceited. Yet I value your opinion more than the opinion of anybody, because in other things I have always found your judgment more deep and sound than anybody’s. However, I will go to Huxley next Saturday for an antidote, as it is quite true what he said about himself at Cambridge, that he is not given to making panegyrics.2

On the whole, as I have said, I was surprised how well it was taken.3 And still more so in Yorkshire last week—where I was lecturing at Leeds and Halifax on Medusæ, and took occasion to wind up about you and your degree. I was perfectly astonished at the reception you got among such popular audiences. What a change you have lived to see! If ever human being had a right to cry ‘Vici4—but you know it all better than I do.

About the grafts, I thought it most natural that you should not like the bother of having them done at Down, when there are such a multitude of other gardens belonging to do-nothing people. But as you have mentioned it, I may suggest that in the case of onions there is a difficulty in all the gardens I know—viz., that they are more or less infested with onion worms.5 If, therefore, you should know any part of your garden where onions have not grown for some years, I might do the grafts here in pots, and bring the promising ones to plant out at Down in May. Seed could then be saved in the following autumn. All the other plants could be grown in the other gardens, and well attended to.

That is a very interesting letter in ‘Nature.’6 What do you think of Dr. Sanderson’s paper in the same number, as to its philosophy and expression?7 I have sent a letter about animal psychology which I think will interest you.8

With kind regards to all, I remain, very sincerely and most respectfully (this is a bow which I specially reserve for you, and would make it lower, but for the fear of making myself ridiculous),

Geo. J. Romanes.

P.S.— I fear Mr. Morley would think my lecture too long, and not original enough for the ‘Fortnightly.’9


Thomas Henry Huxley had given a speech at the Cambridge Philosophical Club dinner celebrating the honorary LLD that was conferred on CD by the University of Cambridge (for more on the awarding of the degree and Huxley’s speech, see Nature, 22 November 1877, p. 64). Huxley told CD he had said only what was strictly accurate (see letter from T. H. Huxley, 21 November 1877). A version of the speech was published in L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 480–1.
Romanes’s letter to CD describing the lecture has not been found, but see the letter to G. J. Romanes, [1 and 2 December 1877].
Vici (Latin): I have conquered.
CD had offered his garden for any experimental work Romanes might want to do in connection with his grafting experiments (see letter to G. J. Romanes, [1 and 2 December 1877] and n. 4). Romanes refers to the maggots of the onion fly, Delia antiqua, which develop inside the bulbs of onions, garlic, leeks, and other similar bulbs. Pupae of the fly can overwinter in the soil, making them hard to eradicate.
CD’s letter to Nature, 21 November [1877], was published in Nature, 29 November 1877, p. 78. It introduced the letter from Fritz Müller to CD of 19 October 1877, discussing various plants and insects.
In Nature, 29 November 1877, pp. 84–7, John Scott Burdon Sanderson’s paper ‘Remarks on the attributes of the germinal particles of Bacteria, in reply to Prof. Tyndall’, which had been read at the Royal Society of London on 22 November 1877, was printed in full. Burdon Sanderson was responding to remarks made by John Tyndall regarding experiments related to spontaneous generation (for more on Burdon Sanderson in the context of debates about spontaneous generation, see Strick 2000, pp. 149–53).
Romanes’s observations, ‘Fetichism in animals’, appeared not as a letter but in the ‘News’ section of Nature, 27 December 1877, pp. 168–9.
John Morley was the editor of the Fortnightly Review; CD suggested Romanes’s lecture might be reprinted in that journal (see letter to G. J. Romanes, [1 and 2 December 1877] and n. 8).


Strick, James. 2000. Sparks of life: Darwinism and the Victorian debates over spontaneous generation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.


Thanks for letter. Values CD’s opinion more than that of anybody else.

Perfectly astonished at reception CD got among popular audiences at GJR’s lectures.

Letter details

Letter no.
George John Romanes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Cornwall Terrace, 18
Source of text
E. D. Romanes 1896, p. 68

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11283,” accessed on 2 December 2021,