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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin to James T. Knowles   8 February 1875

Trinity College | Cambridge

Feb. 8. 1875

Dear Sir,

Prof. Whitney has written to my Father with respect to my review of his article in the Nov. Contemp. Rev, & Max Müller’s reply.1 He is anxious to have a short reply in the Contemp. Review, and I much hope that you will admit one.2 He has sent the enclosed letter to you to my Father, but did not know to whom to address it.3

As Prof. Max Müller does not profess to have read Whitney’s article &, as I gather, only skimmed mine, Whitney certainly seems to have had rather hard measure in so severe an article.4 I have no doubt that Prof Whitney will have expressed in his letter to you, as he has in his letter to my Father, that he does not wish you to bind yourself to admit his answer until you had seen it.

Believe me Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | G. H. Darwin

Jas. Knowles Esq | Messrs. Strahan’s | 2 Paternoster Row5


William Dwight Whitney’s letter has not been found. George’s article ‘Professor Whitney on the origin of language’ (G. H. Darwin 1874) appeared in the November 1874 issue of the Contemporary Review. In it, George defended CD’s account of the origin of speech against the views of Friedrich Max Müller and St George Jackson Mivart. Max Müller’s article, ‘My reply to Mr. Darwin’, appeared in the Contemporary Review, January 1875 (Max Müller 1875). For more on the background of the article and the views of those involved, see Alter 2005, pp. 184–92.
Whitney’s reply, ‘Are languages institutions?’, appeared in the Contemporary Review, April 1875 (Whitney 1875).
Whitney’s letter to Knowles has not been found. This letter from George to Knowles was sent to CD to use as a cover letter when he forwarded Whitney’s; he had already done so, however, and George’s letter remained with CD’s papers. See letter to G. H. Darwin, 10 [February 1875].
Max Müller wrote that he had not previously read Whitney’s ‘Lectures on language’ (a reference to Language and the study of language (Whitney 1867); see Max Müller 1875, p. 307).
The publisher of the Contemporary Review, Alexander Stuart Strahan, had premises at 12 Paternoster Row, London (Post Office London directory 1875). His original company, Strahan & Co., had forced him out in 1874, when the firm was changed to Isbister & Co.; Strahan had retained the copyright to the Contemporary Review and other publications (ODNB).


Alter, Stephen G. 2005. William Dwight Whitney and the science of language. Baltimore, Md., and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Max Müller, Friedrich. 1875. My reply to Mr. Darwin. Contemporary Review 25 (1874–5): 305–26.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Whitney, Josiah Dwight. 1867. Language and the study of language: twelve lectures on the principles of linguistic science. London: Trübner.

Whitney, William Dwight. 1875. Are languages institutions? Contemporary Review 25 (1874–5): 713–32.


Letter [to editor of Contemp. Rev.] saying that W. D. Whitney would like to reply to Max Müller. Hopes space can be given him.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
James Thomas Knowles
Sent from
Trinity College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 46
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9846,” accessed on 13 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23