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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Lyon Playfair   28 May [1875]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

May 28th

My dear Dr. Playfair

I must write one line to thank you for your very kind letter, & to say that after despatching my last note, it suddenly occurred to me that I had been rude in calling one of the provisions of your Bill, “monstrous” or “absurd”—I forget which—.2 But when I wrote the expression it was addressed to the bigots, who I believed had forced you to a compromise.

I cannot understand what Dr. B. Sanderson could have been about not to have objected with respect to clause of not demonstrating on animals rendered insensible.—3 I am extremely sorry that you have had trouble & vexation on the subject.— It is a most disagreeable & difficult one.— I am not personally concerned, as I never tried an experiment on a living animal, nor am I a physiologist, but I know enough to see how ruinous it wd be to stop all progress in so grand a science as physiology.

I commenced the agitation amongst the physiologists for this reason, & because I have long felt very keenly on the question of useless vivisection, & believed though without any good evidences that there was not always, even in this country, care enough taken.—

Pray forgive this note, so much about myself. & believe me | Yours sincerely | Ch Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Lyon Playfair, 27 May 1875.
See letter from Lyon Playfair, 27 May 1875. CD had criticised changes made to the bill on vivisection before it was presented in the House of Commons (see letter to Lyon Playfair, 26 May 1875).
John Scott Burdon Sanderson had allegedly consented to the changes made to the bill that banned vivisection for teaching purposes (see letter from Lyon Playfair, 27 May 1875). However, in his letter to CD of 23 May [1875], he stated that vivisection was essential in the teaching of physiology.


Writes again on the Vivisection Bill, expresses his desire not to ruin the progress of physiology whilst avoiding useless vivisection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair of St Andrews
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Medicine and Technology Archives (Playfair 207)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9997,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23