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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Sharpey   2 June [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

June 2d

Dear Sharpey

I have heard from Hooker that he has proposed Lindley for the Royal medal; & as I expressed my opinion to you on Hancock & Prestwich, I hope you will forgive me troubling you with a few lines.2 You may with truth think it absurd in a man not a Botanist, expressing an opinion on a Botanist, but my work for several years has led me to read a good deal on Botany, especially in foreign Journals &c., & it has been of consequence to me to form the best opinion I could, how much to trust the remarks & generalisations of various authors. This being so, I may state that I have been led to form a very high opinion of Lindley’s work, so that in my opinion neither Hancock or Prestwich could for a minute be placed in competition with him for one of the R. medals. His claim under many points of view seems to me very strong. To make a first rate monograph on any one small department seems not to be very difficult,—still less so to gain a wide but superficial knowledge; but to have so profound a knowledge as to discuss on sound principles the classification of the whole vegetable kingdom, as Lindley has done, shows extraordinary talents & knowledge:3 I have observed frequently that foreign authors on whatever class or family they are treating, seem to consider Lindley’s opinions as deserving serious consideration. If I were on the Council, I shd give without doubt & with the highest satisfaction, my vote for Lindley.4

Permit me to say one other word: Hooker tells me that my letter to you was read to the Council:5 I had thought that you had asked merely for my private opinion,—all that I said in that letter expressed my deliberate conviction, whatever that may be worth, but I am rather alarmed that I expressed myself dogmatically under the impression that I was writing to a private friend & not to a Body like the Council of the Royal Soc.y.— I most sincerely hope that this may not have been, as I fear it was.—

Believe me dear Sharpey | Your’s sincerely | Ch. Darwin


Dated by the relationship to the letter to J. D. Hooker, 2 June [1857].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 2 June [1857]. CD’s previous note to Sharpey supporting Joseph Prestwich and Albany Hancock has not been found.
John Lindley was the author of The vegetable kingdom; or, the structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system (Lindley 1846; 2d ed., 1853).
Lindley was awarded a Royal Medal in 1857. Hancock received one of the two Royal Medals in 1858, and Joseph Prestwich was a recipient in 1865.


Lindley, John. 1846b. The vegetable kingdom. London: the author.


Supports nomination of John Lindley for award of Royal Medal of the Royal Society.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Sharpey
Sent from
Source of text
Houghton Library, Harvard University (MS Lowell Autograph File 84)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2100,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6