Letters Relating to George John Romanes

A comprehensive collection of Romanes' correspondence may be found in Darwin’s Disciple: George John Romanes, a Life in Letters, by Joel S. Schwartz. American Philosophical Society. 2010 (Click Here). This collates letters from various editions of Ethel Romanes' biography of GJR, from Addison Gulick's 1932 biography of his father, and from various archives in the USA and the UK.

   The nucleus of the Romanes collection in the Archives of Queen's University at Kingston was established in the 1990s as the Mabel Ringereide papers (#2324.2, 4 boxes). The originals of the letters below and some other Romanes-related materials have been added. The Queen's Archives also hold nineteenth century materials relating to Romanes' friend Grant Allen. There are also materials (e.g. correspondence with various Queen's University Principals) that mainly relate to George Romanes (father of GJR).                                              

                                                                                                                                    Donald R. Forsdyke, August 2010

    In 2009, Romanes' grand-daughter, Joan Westmacott, placed several albums of letters and press-cuttings (reviews of Romanes' books) in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Since these are annotated in Romanes' hand (e.g. a letter from Darwin dated March 29th was noted as "My last letter from Darwin"), we may assume that the albums were originally prepared by Romanes. There are many blank pages, suggesting that some materials have been removed.

Donald R. Forsdyke, May 2011

    The little-known poetry of Romanes, through which he expressed both his grief at the loss of his great mentor, and his religious doubts, is dealt with by J. David Pleins, a Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University, USA. See: In Praise of Darwin: George Romanes and the Evolution of a Darwian Believer, by J. David Pleins. Bloomsbury Academic, New York. 2014. (Click Here)

Donald R. Forsdyke, August 2014


  Correspondence between Ethel Romanes and T. H. Huxley is contained in Chapter 5 of Tomorrow's Cures Today? entitled: Huxley and the Philosopher's Wife. Another Case History of Evaluation in Science (Harwood Academic, Amsterdam. 2000, pp. 35-54). This deals with Huxley's attack on Romanes and the role of Romanes' wife/widow in his work.   (Click Here)

Donald R. Forsdyke, September 2016

Letters_from_Bodleian_collection (1873-87)

Letter on Sully's Criticism to Editor of Nineteenth Century Nov 16th 1891

Letter to Miss Anne Ingham March 11th 1892

Letters from Ethel Romanes June 1894 to Sir Henry Acland

Postcard from August Weismann Feb 1895 to Professor Lloyd Morgan

Catalogue of the Papers of George John Romanes 1867-1927 in Bodleian Library, Oxford

Letters from Bodleian collection viewed by DRF May 2011

Letter from Michael Foster: Shelford, Oct. 30th

Probably in 1873-4 when GJR moved from Cambridge to research in London. It implies that GJR had written to Foster asking for an introduction to J. B. Sanderson: "Dear Romanes, I was very glad to hear from you again. I had been wondering what had become of you. Here is an introduction to Sanderson - I hope that you will find everything there that you want. I wish I could have had the credit of your work for the laboratory here. I suppose you have no wish to go to Naples - A place in Dohrn's Zoological Station is now vacant - I [?] one of the places which the University has a right to file - & if you cared about going, I have no doubt I could get you appointed to the place. It is of course more for morphological than physiological work but the latter can be done there and there is no end to be done. Ever yours truly, M. Foster"

Letter from W. Sharpey: March 31th 1876

Sharpey was associated with JBS at University College: "Dear Miss Romanes, Please kindly convey my best compliments to Mrs. Romanes and say that I shall have much pleasure in complying with her kind invitation to dinner on Saturday the 8th April at 7. Believe me, Yours very sincerely, W. Sharpey."

Letter from Charles Darwin: Dec. 13th 1880

Postscript at end of 4 page letter about Romanes' experiments: "I hear that Mr. S. Butler abuses me as a liar & scoundrel in his new book, but I do not intend to look at it." Romanes took the bait, replying on December 14th (see letter in Schwart's book): "Samuel Butler is a lunatic beneath contempt - an object of pity were it not for his vein of malice." [Schwartz leaves a gap for the name, as did Ethel Romanes in her biography.]

Letter from Alfred Newton: Jan. 13th 1882

This was written from 44 Davies Street, Berkeley Square W., during a visit of AN from Cambridge to London. It concerns the social nature of birds and is in the section of these pages on Newton and cuckoo's .Click Here

Letter from Francis Galton: Oct. 16th 1885

Thanks GJR for care of peas, which FG will now measure and classify. Also wants GJR to send him "the account of your own experiments."

etter from Sir John A Macdonald, when visiting London: Dec. 24th 1885

..."I  am going out of town for some days but hope on my return to be able to arrange to dine with you before my departure to Canada. In the hope of having that pleasure ... "

Letter from J. W. L. Glaister for the Royal Astronomical Society: Jan. 18th 1887

"... if you can give any information with regard to the observatory at Kingston (Canada). An instrument - the Beaufort Equatorial [? spelling] - was lent to the observatory in 1883 and was transmitted by you to Kingston (& we have your acknowledgement of having received it).
    Instruments lent by the Society are applied for every year, & if they are required for a further period by those to whom they are lent, a fresh application has to be made to the Society. For some years - five or six - the usual notice has been sent to the "Director of the Observatory" at Kingston, but no reply has ever been received. Can you therefore kindly tell me the name of the Director, or suggest someone to whom you think I had better apply. If so I should feel very much indebted to you. Yours faithfully, J. W. L. Glaister"

Letter from Max Muller: June 25th 1887

"I look forward with interest to your paper in Nature. I may be right or wrong, but the question of the inseparability of language and thought ought to be settled."


Letter to Miss Anne Ingham congratulating her on her engagement: March 11th 1892 

Miss Ingham,
Castle Lodge,
March 11/92

Atheneum Club,
Pall Mall S. W.

My very dear Sister Annie,

                                         It is a shame of me to have been so long in writing to congratulate you on your happiness. But the truth is that I have been rendered so much the reverse of happy by constant headaches and no less constant accumulation of work, that, short of what has been absolutely necessary, my correspondence has been allowed to drop.

           Today, however, I find myself suddenly called to London - on business with the G. O. M. of all men in the world, in order to fix date, subject, etc., for his lecture at Oxford.  I have just been lunching with him and Mrs. G. round the corner, and now have an hour with nothing to do till the train starts at Paddington. So I will utilize it by trying to show that my delay in writing to you has not been due to the want of appropriate sentiments.

            That one of your experience has made a good choice it would be hard to doubt, and therefore it is not to be expected that your life henceforth will be other than a happy one. Long may it last and never may your newer ties tend to loosen those older ones, which have been so closely drawn between you and your most affectionate


Transcript made by DRF and Joan Westmacott from original letter in possession of Joan Westmacott, September 29th 2001, on the occasion of her visit to Canada to see her paternal grandfather's birthplace, and her great grand-mother's first Canadian residence - the old manse at Beckwith.

Three letters purchased by DRF in 2008 from Julian Browning Rare Books and Manuscripts, London, are deposited as part of the Romanes Collection in the Archives of Queen's University. Transcripts from originals made by DRF.

Letters from Ethel Romanes to Sir Henry Acland concerning the recent death of George John Romanes

Both hand-written on paper with black borders with watermark ""King of Kent, Superfine". 

Pencil mark #174 with "Thoughts on Religion" at top in pencil [probably 1894]

Ackland is probably Henry Wentworth Ackland (1815-1900) Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, one time personal physician to Queen Victoria and model for Lewis Carroll's white rabbit. He was much concerned with public sanitation and underground sewers, which he could be seen inspecting from time to time.

My dear Sir Henry Acland,

             Thank you so very much. I cannot help feeling that you h no id what this means to me. But for George I can only be thankfull, & I suppose God will help me to bear what seems impossible - living without him who was the joy & sunshine of my life. Please give my kind regards to Mrs Acland. 

Yours sincerely,

Ethel Romanes
Oxford June 5

Pencil mark #173. Address given just as "Oxford" with date "June 15" [probably 1894]


My dear Sir Henry,

                                         I've been talking to the Dean, & we both think the "Guardian" notices had better appear as prefaces to George's poems. Thank you so much for thinking about me so [erased] [undecipherable]. I send you his sonnets.

Yours most sincerely, 

E. Romanes

June 15

I've had such a kind letter from Mr. Gladstone, thank you so much for sending him the 'Guardian'

Postcard from August Weismann to Professor Lloyd Morgan, University College, Bristol, about locating a passage quoted by the late Mr. Romanes

Pencil mark on front of card "Heape 147", perhaps referring to a collection of letters in the possession of Walter Heape. Addressed in Weismann's hand to Professor C. Lloyd Morgan, University College, Bristol, England. Postmarked Freiburg 14.2. 95

Dear Professor Lloyd Morgan,

I have not been able to find the passage quoted by the late Mr. Romanes. It must be contained in one of my memoirs previous to the Germplasm. Should I still find it, I shall tell you.

Yours very truly,

August Weismann

Freiburg i. Br.

14 Febr. 1895

Romanes and Evolution of Mind (Click Here)

Romanes and Evolutionary Biology (Click Here)

Romanes & Physiological Selection (1886) (Click Here)

Romanes Meets His Critics (1887) (Click Here)

Romanes Early Career & Religion (Click Here)

Romanes Versus Alfred Newton (Click Here)

Romanes, Grant Allen, Wallace & Gould (Click Here)

Romanes, Wallace & Agnes Machar (Click Here)

History of Queen's University (Click Here)

This page was established in 2001 and was last edited 13 Sep 2016 by Donald R. Forsdyke