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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would be conciliated to the subsequent develop=
=ment of the theory in all its bearings. It
would be approached with impartiality — not
to say favour & would appeal to the large public
which had been interested by the previous book
upon pigeons, — which book would yet be complete
in itself, & open to none of the objections that I
have urged against the present outline. Indeed
I should say of the latter that for an outline it
is too much, & for a thorough discussion of the
question it is not near enough.

I write this letter with the intention that
you should forward it to Mr. Darwin. He must
be good enough to excuse the crude manner
in which I state my impressions. I am obliged
to write as fast as my pen can move or I should
not be able to write at all. My sole object & de-
=sire is to secure his theory coming before the
world in the way which will do justice to the
extraordinary merit of his investigations & procure
him that fame which belongs to him.
I am but a smatterer in these subjects. What I
say has no sort of authority except so far as
it may chance to recommend itself to Mr. Darwin's
own reason. The book on pigeons would be at
any rate a delightful commencement
& I am certain its reception would be the