RECORD: Anon. 1885. The Darwin memorial statue. The Times (10 June): 10.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed (single key) by AEL Data 2010, corrections by John van Wyhe 2.2012. RN1

[page] 10


In the presence of a large gathering of scientific and literary men, the Prince of Wales yesterday accepted, on behalf of the trustees of the British Museum and for the nation, a statue of Darwin, which forms the visible representation, it may be said, of the recognition by the civilized peoples of the world of the value of the life work of this patient observer, fearless thinker, and judicious writer. The statue has most fitly been placed in the great hall of the new building at South Kensington in which the natural history collections of the British Museum are housed. At the end of the light and handsomely-proportioned hall opposite to the principal entrance rises, it will be remembered, a double staircase, and it is at the head of the first flight of steps and between the stairs giving access to the arcaded galleries on the right and left that the white marble statue of the great naturalist is placed. The two speakers at the ceremonial, the Prince of Wales and the President of the Royal Society, stood on either side of the statue, and behind them, the broad stairways providing conveniently tiered platforms, were members of the bodies they respectively represented. To the spectators' left were trustees of the British Museum, a few others standing with them, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Steward (Earl Sydney); two family trustees, Earl Cadogan and Mr. F. W. Knight, C.B„ M.P.; Viscount Sherbrooke, Lord Acton, Lord Walsingham, Lord Houghton, the Earl of Abingdon, Major-General Sir H. Rawlinson, Mr. Beresford-Hope, M.P., the Right Hon. Spencer H. Walpole, the Dean of Windsor, Mr. Robert Browning, and Colonel Clarke, who was in attendance on the Prince of Wales. Opposite, with Professor Huxley, or in some cases among the subscribers accommodated with seats in the hall below, were Professor Flower, F.R.S., Superintendent of the Museum, the venerable Sir Richard Owen, several members of Darwin's family, among them three of his sons—Mr. William Darwin, Professor George Darwin, and Captain Leonard Darwin, R.E.; Mr. Reginald Darwin, and Mr. Litchfield, a son-in-law; the Dean of the Abbey Church at Westminster, where the remains of the famous writer on the origin of species were interred little more than three years ago; Dr. Swainson, Master of Christ's College, Cambridge, Darwin's college; Admiral Sir B. J. Sulivan and Vice-Admiral Mellersh, C.B., two of the three surviving officers with whom Darwin sailed in the Beagle; Prince Roland Bonaparte, Mr. John Evans, LL.D, vice-president of the Royal Society, the treasurer of the Darwin Memorial Fund, and Professor T. G. Bonney and Mr. P. E. Dove, the hon. secretaries; Sir Joseph Hooker, Mr. F. Galton, Sir W. Bowman, General Pitt-Rivers, Lord Aberdare, Sir Trevor Lawrence, president of the Royal Horticultural Society, Sir T.H. Farrer, Sir W.F. Pollock, Professor O.T. Newton. Mr. Bond, principal librarian of the British Museum; Mr. G. Busk, Archdeacon Farrar, Sir W. Gull, Mr. James Heywood, Sir Joseph Lister, Professor Alfred Newton, of Cambridge, Sir James Paget, the Earl of Cawdor, Lord Arthur Russell, M.P., Mr. P. L. Sclater, Professor Michael Foster, F.R.S., Mr. Lecky, Sir Richard Temple, General Sir Beauchamp Walker, Admiral Sir E. Ommanney, Admiral Sir E. Fanshawe, Mr. Herbert Spencer, Mr. Romanes, Professor Sylvester, Dr. J. H. Gladstone, Professor H. G. Seeley, Professor Ray Lankester, Mr. Osbert Salvin, Mr. Waterhouse, R.A., the architect of the Natural History Museum, and Mr. Boehm, R.A., the sculptor of the statue.

PROFESSOR HUXLEY, the chairman of the committee, in formally presenting the memorial to the trustees of the British Museum, said:—Your Royal Highness,—It is now three years since the announcement of the death of our famous countryman, Charles Darwin, gave rise to a manifestation of public feeling, not only in these realms, but throughout the civilized world, which, if I mistake not, is without precedent in the modest annals of scientific biography. The causes of this deep and wide outburst of emotion are not far to seek. We had lost one of those rare ministers and interpreters of Nature whose names mark epochs in the advance of natural knowledge. For, whatever be the ultimate verdict of posterity upon this or that opinion which Mr. Darwin has propounded, whatever adumbrations or anticipations of his doctrines may be found in the writings of his predecessors, the broad fact remains that since the publication, and by reason of the publication, of the "Origin of Species" the fundamental conceptions and the aims of the students of living Nature have been completely changed. From that work has sprung a great renewal, a true "instauratio magna" of the zoological and botanical sciences. But the impulse thus given to scientific thought rapidly spread beyond the ordinarily recognized limits of biology. Psychology, ethics, cosmology were stirred to their foundations, and the "Origin of Species" proved itself to be the fixed point which the general doctrine of evolution needed in order to move the world. "Darwinism," in one form or another, sometimes strangely distorted and mutilated, became an everyday topic of men's speech, the object of an abundance both of vituperation and of praise, more often than of serious study. It is curious to remember now how largely at first the objectors predominated; but, considering the usual fate of new views, it is still more curious to consider for how short a time the phase of vehement opposition lasted. Before 20 years had passed, not only had the importance of Mr. Darwin's work been fully recognized, but the world had discerned the simple, earnest, generous character of the man that shone through every page of his writings. I imagine that reflections such as these swept through the minds alike of loving friends and of honourable antagonists when Mr. Darwin died; and that they were at one in the desire to honour the memory of the man who, without fear and without reproach, had successfully fought the hardest intellectual battle of these days. It was in satisfaction of these just and generous impulses that Our great naturalist's remains were deposited in Westminster Abbey; and that, immediately afterwards, a public meeting, presided over by my lamented predecessor, Mr. Spottiswoode, was held in the rooms of the Royal Society, for the purpose of considering what further steps should be taken towards the same end. It was resolved to invite subscriptions with the view of erecting a statue to Mr. Darwin in some suitable locality, and to devote any surplus to the advancement of the biological sciences. Contributions at once flowed in from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and the British Colonies, no less than from all parts of the three kingdoms, and they came from all classes of the community. To mention one interesting case, Sweden sent in 2,296 subscriptions "from all sorts of people," as the distinguished man of science who transmitted them wrote, "from the bishop to the seamstress, and in sums from £5 to 2d." The executive committee have thus been enabled to carry out the projects proposed. A "Darwin Fund" has been created, which is to be held in trust by the Royal Society and is to be employed in the promotion of biological research. The execution of the statue was entrusted to Mr. Boehm, and I think that those who had the good fortune to know Mr. Darwin personally will admire the power of artistic divination which has enabled the sculptor to pla e before us so very characteristic a likeness of one whom he had not seen. It appeared to the committee that, whether they regarded Mr. Darwin's career or the requirements of a work of art, no site could be so appropriate as this great hall, and they applied to the trustees of the British Museum for permission to erect it in its present position. That permission was most cordially granted, and I am desired to tender the best thanks of the committee to the trustees for their willingness to accedo to our wishes. I also beg leave to offer the expression of our gratitude to your Royal Highness for kindly consenting to represent the trustees to-day.

The cloth covering the statue having been removed,

PROFESSOR HUXLEY, when the cheering had ceased, continued:—It only remains for me, your Royal Highness, my lords and gentlemen, trustees of the British Museum, in the name of the Darwin Memorial Committee, to request you to accept this statue of Charles Darwin. We do not make this request for the mere sake of perpetuating a memory; for, so long as men occupy themselves with the pursuit of truth, the name of Darwin runs no more risk of oblivion than does that of Copernicus or that of Harvey.

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