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Darwin Correspondence Project

From F. W. Farrar   7 March [1867]1


March. 7.

My dear Sir,

Your kind approval gratifies me more, I think I may candidly say, then would the approval of any living man.2 I have reason to hope that real work is being done, in the direction of relieving our present educational system from its extraordinarly fantastic & stationary condition. I am filled with sorrow & indignation when I think of the mere paralysis of intellectual power wh. it produces—not in boys of genius, for genius is a fire wh. calcines any amount of superimposed rubbish—but in boys of fine manly minds & average intellect. I allude especially to the fetish-worship of Latin Verse, with wh both at the University & in the Public Schools I think that we cd wage war to the knife. I shall be happy if my Lecture (wh. of course involves me in some unpleasantnesses) hastens the death of so irrational a system.3

The constructive side is really not difficult. I send, by book post, (but only at present, privately) a copy of the Report of a Sub Committee of the Brit. Assocn. on this subject, for wh. I moved at the Nottingham meeting.4 The only members of the Committee were Professors Tyndall & Huxley, Mr. Griffith (who after Easter is coming to be a regular Science master here at Harrow), & Mr. Wilson of Rugby.5 This Report will probably come before you when it has been adopted by the Council, as I expect it will be tomorrow. It is not yet revised & corrected.

I am, dear Sir, with sincere respect, | Most faithfully your’s | Frederic W. Farrer.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to F. W. Farrar, 5 March 1867.
CD had expressed his agreement with Farrar’s position on public school education in Farrar 1867 (see letter to F. W. Farrar, 5 March 1867).
See letter to F. W. Farrar, 5 March 1867 and n. 2.
The reference is to ‘Report of the committee appointed by the Council of the British Association for the Advancement of Science to consider the best means for promoting scientific education in schools’, later published in the Report of the thirty-seventh meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Dundee in September 1867, pp. xxxix–liv. CD’s pre-publication copy has not been found. The Nottingham meeting of the British Association had been held in 1866.
Farrar refers to John Tyndall, Thomas Henry Huxley, George Griffith, and James Maurice Wilson. Griffith is not named as a member of the committee in the published version of the report (see n. 4, above). On the movement to introduce science into English public schools, see White 2003, pp. 75–81.


Farrar, Frederic William. 1867a. On some defects in public school education. [Read 8 February 1867.] Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain 5 (1866–9): 26–44.

White, Paul. 2003. Thomas Huxley. Making the ‘man of science’. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


On improving the educational system.

Letter details

Letter no.
Frederic William Farrar
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 38
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5434,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15