RECORD: Spottiswoode, William. 1882.04.24. Letter to George Howard Darwin. CUL-DAR215.5b. Edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 11.2021. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Darwin Online manuscript catalogue, enter its Identifier here. Reproduced with permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.

We have added a typed note and an enclosure mentioned by Spottiwoode. The date on the note is mis-typed as 3 April. Spottiswoode, William. 1882. [Speech on the late Darwin]. The Royal Academy banquet. The Times (1 May): 7. A865






Dear Darwin, you will like to all that enclosed from the Dean. Kindly return it at your leisure. I have telegraphed that Mrs Spottiswoode will very much like to come on Wednesday.


Kindly send her card to me at the Royal Society.

I found your letter on my return; & conclude that you will have sent to the German Ambassador. But if I can be of any use in the matter, pray command me.

Vy Sincerely

W Spottiswoode

The Prince of Wales wd. have come but for the wedding affairs at Windsor.



3 APRIL [MAY] 1882.

Dear Darwin, I am sure that you will be gratified by the enclosed. Please return it at your convenience, in order that I may lay it before the Council of the R.S.

Believe me your very sincerely,

W Spottiswoode

P.S. Thanks for your kind note of last week.

(letter from the students of the University of Padua through their professor Canestrini – express condolence – Letters from Manebrea Ital. Minister to the P.R.S)

[The enclosure: Spottiswoode, William. 1882. [Speech on the late Darwin] The Royal Academy banquet. The Times (1 May): 7.]

Mr. SPOTTISWOODE, in responding, said,—Your Majesty, Mr. President, your Royal Highnesses, my lords and gentlemen,—On each of the many occasions on which you have been good enough to propose this toast some one of our leading men has returned thanks, as I now very sincerely do for the continued honour that you have herein done to us. And in so responding it has been the custom of my predecessors to dwell at greater or less length on the intimate connexion between science and art, on their similarities and contrasts, and on other topics. In this way, it has come to pass that in a long series of years there has been piled up a heap or cairn of offerings by those who have passed this pleasant spot in their pilgrimage of life. I trust, however, that on this occasion, coming, as I do, almost fresh from the grave of our greatest philosopher and noblest spirit, I may be permitted to bow my head and pass almost in silence by a spot all bright and joyous in itself, but whose brightness is overshadowed, and whose joys are chastened by the memory of the great man who has gone on before. (Hear, hear.) I know not whether, in the presence of statesmen and leaders of thought, of commanders both by sea and land, of artists, of preachers, of poets and men of letters of every kind, it is fitting that I should speak of greatness; but if patience and perseverance in good work, if a firm determination to turn neither to the right hand nor to the left, either for glory or for gain, if a continual overcoming of evil with good in any way constitute elements of greatness, then the man of whom I speak—Charles Darwin—was truly great. (Cheers.) He lived, indeed, to a good age; he lived to complete his great work of life; he lived to witness a revolution in public opinion on matters with which he was concerned such as few had seen before—a revolution from opposition to concurrence, a revolution from antipathy to sympathy, or whatever else may better express a complete change of front. (Cheers.) And so having at the beginning been somewhat rudely pushed aside as an intruder and disturber of accepted opinions, he was in the end not only borne on the shoulders of his comrades to his last resting-place, but was welcomed at the threshold by the custodians of an ancient fabric and of an ancient faith as a fitting companion of Newton and of Herschel, and of the other great men who from time to time have been gathered there. (Cheers.) His science and his philosophy will live in his works, and for many a long year they will bring forth fresh fruit under the hands of his successors. But the feeling which is at the moment uppermost in our minds is that we have lost our friend, that we have lost the man. And herein I am reminded with exceeding vividness of a remark which I ventured to make on a former occasion in this place—namely, that it was the function of your art to preserve to us living likenesses of those whom we have lost. Never was this function more keenly needed, never was it better performed than in the portrait which to-day hangs on your walls. (Hear, hear.) For this you have the thanks of the scientific world. I fear that the remarks which I have now made may appear somewhat out of tune with the tone of this the most festive of our London gatherings; but it has been truly said that if on the one hand no day is so dark that it is nowhere cheered by a gleam of sunshine, so, on the other, there is none so bright that it is not at some time crossed by the shadow of a passing cloud. (Cheers.)

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

File last updated 19 November, 2023