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Letter 8089

Darwin, C. R. to Litchfield, H. E. (Darwin, H. E.)

2 Dec [1871]


Sends MS chapter on voice from Expression to HL for examination.

Agrees with R. B. Litchfield about Herbert Spencer’s views on speech and music.


Dec. 2d

My dear Henrietta

I shall send off today or on Monday, registered, the M.S. on theuse of the Voice for Expression.f2 It is an extremely poor affair,but I must say something, & have nothing worth saying. I have no copy of the M.S. so please lock it up carefully,for I hate it to that extent that it wd. break my heart towrite it again.— Keep it till we come to London, & very niceit will be then to see you.—f3 No doubt style wants improving,but I am sick of altering it.— Pray ask Litchfield whetherI have succeeded in giving what he means. I do not know whether heever was thanked for his M.S. which I was very glad to read severaltimes over,f4 & shall keep for the Descent, in case I shd wish tocorrect the part about music.f5 For the present work music comes inonly quite subordinately. I agree with Litchfield, & had come tothe conclusion before that Spencer does not really explaincause of change in pitch, intervals &c &c neither in emotionalspeech nor in music.f6 But it seems to me very good to point out,as Spencer has done, that they are connected.— George hasindoctrinated me a little & shown me passages in Helmholtz.f7

If you find any sentences “the most horrid which you ever readin your life”—pray correct them; but do not bother yourselfabout corrections.f8

Poor dear soul I have been very sorry that you have kept so poorly,& you seem to me wonderfully patient.f9

Your affectionate Father | C. Darwin

DAR 185: 35



The year is established by the reference to the manuscript ofExpression, which was begun in January 1871 and published in November 1872(CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II); Freeman 1977).
CD’s draft on the voice for Expression has not been found. See letter toH. E. Litchfield, [before 2 December 1871] and n. 3.
The Litchfields lived in lodgings at 54 Beaumont Street, London(R. B. Litchfield, Record, personal and domestic, vol. 1 (DAR248/1)); CD stayed with his brother, Erasmus,in London between 14 and 22 December 1871 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
See memorandum from R. B. Litchfield, [before 2 December 1871].
In Descent 2: 330–7, CD had argued that music was developed forthe purposes of courtship. He made minor revisions to this discussionin the second edition, but did not incorporate any of Litchfield’scomments (see Descent 2d ed., pp. 566–73).
Litchfield’s memorandum of [before 2 December 1871] commented onHerbert Spencer’s essay ‘The origin and function of music’ (Spencer1858–74, 1: 359–84). CD had discussed Spencer’s theory briefly inDescent 2: 336; and he remarked further on the theory inExpression, pp. 86–7. He also included a lengthy quotation fromLitchfield (Expression, pp. 89–90), the original of which has notbeen found; it appears to be a later elaboration of the memorandum of[before 2 December 1871].
CD’s son George Howard Darwin referred to the work of Hermann vonHelmholtz on the physics of music in annotations he made to the memorandumfrom R. B. Litchfield, [before 2 December 1871]. He later sent CD‘some sentences out of Helmholtz’, possibly the abstract of the Frenchtranslation of Helmholtz 1863 now in DAR 89: 131–2 (Helmholtz 1868; see Correspondence vol. 20, letter from G. H. Darwin, 2 May 1872). CD discussed Helmholtz’s research, which linked theemotional impression of certain musical notes to the shape of the earcavity, in Expression, p. 91.
Henrietta Litchfield was regarded as a stern critic by CD and hisscientific colleagues (see letter to H. E. Litchfield, [after 5] November 1871 and n. 4).
Henrietta became ill during a European tour following herwedding in August 1871 (J. Browne 2002, p. 358).
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