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.


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Copyright National Library of Scotland

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treatise in its present from. It seemed to me that
to put forth the theory without the evidence would
do grievous injustice to his views & to his twenty years
of observation & experiment. At every page I
was tantalised by the absence of the proofs. All
kinds of objections & possibilities rose up in my
mind, & it was fretting to think that the author
had a whole array of facts, & inferences from the
facts, absolutely essential to the decision of the
question which were not before the reader. It is
to ask the jury for a verdict without put
=ting the witness into the box. One
part of the public I suspect, under these circumstances,
will reject the theory from recalling some obvious
facts apparently at variance with it, & to which
Mr. Darwin may nevertheless have a complete
answer, while another part of the public will
feel how unsatisfactory it is to go into the
theory when only a fragment of the subject is
before them, & will postpone the consideration of
it till they can study it with more advantage.
The more original the view, the more elaborate
the researches on which it rests, the more
extensive the series of facts in Natural
History which bear upon it, the more it is
prejudiced by a partial survey of the
field which keeps out of sight the larger
part of the materials.