Quarrel between James Francis Stephens and John Curtis

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Quarrel between James Francis Stephens and John Curtis
by Edward Newman

Edward Newman (13 May 1801 – 12 June 1876) was a founder member of the Entomological Club. In 1832 he was elected as editor of the club's journal, The Entomological Magazine, and the following year became a fellow of the Linnean Society and one of the founder members of the Entomological Society of London.


We never recollect addressing ourselves to a task which we so heartily wished to avoid, as that on which we are now about to enter ; nothing but the call of imperative duty could induce us to undertake it. We have been angry, but we shall not commit ourselves ; the first burst of indignation has passedaway, and in sorrow, in deep sorrow, do we ascend the tribunal which we are compelled to occupy, and judge between the offender and the offended.Most of our readers are already aware of the painful subjectto which we allude ; it is one of those unwarrantable attacks of one author on another which, for years past, have occasionally disgraced the paths of science, and, in this instance,it appears under the peculiarly aggravated circumstances of being unfounded in truth, and perpetrated at a time when misfortune had entitled the subject of the attack to universal sympathy.Mr. Curtis has thought proper to publish, as an appendageto a description of Cercopis ++, merely, as he says, because" there is space for an observation or two," a charge against Mr. Stephens, that, in the second edition of the Nomenclature,he has " copied column after column from the Guide," adopted the plan of the Guide," and made the Nomenclature" rather a second edition of the Guide than of the Nomenclature: " than the first and last of these charges, we nevermet with more gratuitous or untenable assertions : we pronounce this after having compared the two works word for word. With regard to the plan, i. e. in the addition of consecutive numbers to the genera and species, and the adoption of the mode of printing, Mr. Stephens has, we are aware,imitated ; he could not have done otherwise ; but in what manner this is an injury to Mr. Curtis, we defy human ingenuityto point out. Is it not the every-day custom to adopt any new mode or fashion in the getting up of a book ? The only portions of the two works which bear any similarity are those in which the Ichneumonidae occur, and the cause of the similarity here is, not that either has copied from the other, but that both have copied from another work, " Gravenhorst's Ichneumonologia," [to which Stephens,Curtis, Haliday, Walker and Hope were all subscribers] [1] and this surely can be no just cause of complaint ; the right of copying a foreign work cannot be confined to a single individual.The cruel allusion to the affair with Rennie,—an affair which we consider reflects any thing but credit on the laws of this country, is the most unfeeling of all, and betrays a spirit of deep-rooted animosity and revenge which lowers our opinion of our kind. We presumed that the circumstances under which Mr. Stephens was placed had rendered him an objectof kindly feeling with all scientific men ; we imagined that self-respect would have prevented a Briton from striking another in distress ; we supposed British honour would have ourselves,—we have been leaning on a reed.How strenuously, how enthusiastically, have we laboured to eradicate the base and injurious party-spirit which has so long pervaded the paths of science ;—and is this the fruit ? is this the brotherly spirit we invoked ? is this the endeavour, of which we urged the necessity, to forgive the past and to avoid offence for the future ?We see no termination to the mischief now a-foot : we seethat a fresh question may now, in self-defence, be agitated:we see that Mr. Curtis's title to the copyright of this List maybe examined ; this attack is a fair challenge to the inquiry.We fear that Mr. Curtis will find that he had better, far better,have committed the whole copy of that tainted number to the flames, than have ventured to risk it on the excited wave of public opinion.

  • ++As there is space for an observation or two, I wish in justice to myself to state, that I am preparing a second edition of my Guide [2], which cannot fail to resemble Mr. Stephens's Nomenclature, for this palpable reason,—that he has not contented himself with correcting it from my Guide, andcopying column after column from it, but he has actually adopted the style and plan of my work : so that his book now hears the exact resemblance of mine, and is rather a second edition of my Guide than of his Nomenclature ;—a very modest act for one who has brought an action against another for the same trespass! [3]I may add, that when I began my Guide, Mr. Stephens, I believe, had no idea of printing a Nomenclature; I therefore could have no intention of interfering with his undertaking ; and in truth my little Guide could not affect the sale of his ponderous Catalogue, and that was not published when the first sheet of the Guide appeared. From the assistance promised me by some of our ablest entomologists,I hope to make the second edition of my Guide much better than that parasite which has been grafted upon it, and to render it by far the most useful and complete Catalogue of British insects that has ever appeared.

The Entomological magazine Volume 4 page 277 1836 Edited by Edward Newman

Sitting of the 16th November, 1836.[Entomological Society] Present,—Messrs. Bennett, W. Christy, Davis, E. Doubleday, Hoyer, Showell, and Newman. Mr. Davis in the Chair. After the minutes of the last sitting had been read, a discussion of some length took place, as to the propriety of publishing the minutes of the Entomological Club. Mr. W. Christy observed, that as no notice whatever was taken of the proceedings of the Entomological Society, he thought the publication of the minutes of the Club might be construed, by those who were disposed to cavil, into something like an act of hostility Mr. Christy had not the slightest wish to shun publicity, as he was sure that the more widely the acts of the Club were known, the more they would be approved; but he questioned the expediency of publication, at a time when all notice of the Entomological Society was abandoned.Mr. Bennett thought that the better way of getting rid of all such appearance of hostility,—he said appearance, for he knew of no hostility whatever existing towards the Society on the part of the Club,—was to notice the proceedings of the Society;and he regretted that such notice had been abandoned.Mr. Davis inquired who would undertake to attend the meetings of the Society, in order to take minutes of the proceedings.Mr. Newman said, that there was a great difficulty in obtaining any correct information on the subject (especially as to the list of donations ;) and this was the only reason why, as Editor of the Entomological Magazine, he had not noticed theSociety's proceedings. The accounts prepared for the morning papers were, to use the mildest terms, grossly erroneous. A recent report he had seen, stated that Mr. Curtis, F.L.S., took the chair at the October meeting: he found, on inquiry, that Mr. Curtis not only had never presided, but was not a member of the Society. It would never do to copy this as correct information.

The Entomological magazine Volume 4 pages: 375-378 Edited by Edward Newman

Art. L.—Narratim of Capt Henry Fosters Voyage to the Southern Atlantic Ocean, in His Majesty's Ship, Chanticleer. By W. H. B. Webster. Bentley, London, 1834. [Editor loquitur] The times in which we live are troublous times, and we see no reason why we should be exempted from the trouble that surrounds us, that hems us in on every side. Now is the time when we shall be expected to solicit a truce from that steady animosity which, on the part of certain individuals, has dogged us so unweariedly, to kneel to those who have perhaps at times trembled at the bare mention of our rod. Of these acts of humiliation we will consider at a more convenient opportunity ; but there is an act of justice which we must first perform. Some years ago our zeal for Entomology led us to set our faces against a constant bickering at that time carried on between the authors of two rival publications. We thought this bickering highly injurious to the true interests of the science. We determined to oppose it to the uttermost. The practice was continued, and we kept our resolution. The offender was our personal friend ; but this was no screen ; we fancied it a public duty to reprehend, and we reprehended most severely. We were perfectly sincere in what we said ; we weighed the consequences well, and, as the result proved, accurately : we counted and paid the cost. The infinite ramifications of the opposition to our progress, by the friends of the work in question, was a perfect model of human ingenuity:the mind of man is shrewd in the science of persecution, to a degree with which few are thoroughly acquainted. It seems a most luxurious occupation. Now, it may appear strange to thee, dear reader ! that it is in consequence of this very science of persecution being now cultivated most elaborately against Mr. Curtis's work — that very work which we criticised so severely— that very work whose friends pursued us so long and so assiduously with this very persecution — that we now pen these sentences in condemnation of a system whose exquisitely organized power we have resisted, conquered, and outlived. It is difficult to contend with a hidden system of evil, and the perpetrators, in this instance, are careful to veil their deeds in kindred darkness. Every one who reads the pages of the Entomological Magazine, in simplicity of heart, will, we are confident, acknowledge that the system of injuring individuals has never there, for a moment, been entertained;we have been very severe to what, in our judgment, appeared wrong ; but we have, at the same time, diligently sought out the good and the useful, for the very pleasure of praising and recommending. The ill feeling that exists in some breasts against Mr. Curtis, is a matter with which we cannot contend;but we advise,—in perfect sincerity we advise,—those who entertain such a feeling, against its exhibition in a manner calculated to injure him. The works of Mr. Curtis and Mr. Stephens are not only useful but beautiful works : they are the works of our fellow-countrymen, —and that is in itself a claim on us. That we can agree with every thing that these authors are pleased to say,—that we can praise and approve of all they write,—is not to be expected. Perfection is not the inheritance of man; but until we are faultless ourselves, let us bear with the faults of others. We have already said,that the knowledge of the existence of this evil spirit against Mr. Curtis called forth these remarks; furthermore, our abhorrence of the system is so great, that we think it our duty to oppose it, and it will give us real pleasure if these honest observations tend to that gentleman's advantage, by opening the eyes of the unwary, by cautioning the yet uninitiated lover of Entomology against evil counsel. Now, with respect to our own observations on Mr. Curtis's work,we do unhesitatingly declare our conviction, that they were too severe: it was a quarrel in which we ought not to have interfered, and over which we had no jurisdiction. We regret the publication of these observations, and we trust Mr. Curtiswill be satisfied with this confession.-

Mr. Curtis's name was omitted in the two last lists, as a Subscriber for five copies of the Entomological Magazine. The Editor was not aware that Mr. Curtis continued to take them ; no further reason for the omission existed.

All this is foreign to our subject, therefore, let us now turn to the volumes on our table : let us become " Skimmers of the Sea." The South Atlantic regions seem, until late years, to have possessed but slight attractions to the Naturalist........