Letter of Rev. Whitwell Elwin to John Murray, 3 May 1859

Before publishing Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species', Murray sought the opinion of his trusted literary adviser Elwin. He advised against publishing the work and suggested that Darwin write a book about pigeons instead.


Copyright National Library of Scotland

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1859 — May 3
Elwin W.

Booton Rectory Norwich May 3: 1859

My dear Murray,

I have been intending for some days to
write to you upon the subject of Mr Darwin's work on
the Origin of Species. After you had the kindness to allow
me to read the Ms. I made a point of seeing Sir C. Lyell,
who I understood had in some degree, advised the publication.
I had myself formed a strong opinion the other way
& I stated to him fully my conviction & the grounds of it.
When we had thoroughly talked the matter over Sir Charles
considered that I ought through you to convey my im=
=pressions to Mr Darwin himself. I should have thought
this presumptuous & impertinent in me if I had
not received from Sir Charles the assurance that
Mr. Darwin would not consider it either the one or
the other. Nevertheless I speak with diffidence, & am
sorry that Sir Charles, who was just starting for the
continent, could not, before his return, find leisure
to correspond with Mr. Darwin on the question.

I must say at the outset that it is the very
high opinion I have of Mr. Darwin, founded on
his Journal of a Naturalist, & the conviction amounting
to certainty, of the value of any researches of his which
made me eager to get both him & his friends to
re-consider the propriety of sending forth his