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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   27 April [1876]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Ap. 27th

My dear George

I send “Mind”— it seems an excellent periodical.— Sidgwicks article has interested me much.— It is wonderfully clear & makes me feel what a muddle-headed man I am.— I do not agree on one point, however, with him him. He speaks of moral men arising in a tribe, accidentally; i.e by so-called spontaneous variation; but I have endeavoured to show that such men are created by love of glory, approbation &c &c.—

However they appear the tribe as a tribe will be successful in the battle of life, like a hive of bees or nest of ants.2 We are off to London directly, but I am rather bad.3

yours affect | C. Darwin

Leonard comes home on May 10th!! Plans changed.4


The year is established by the reference to the journal Mind; see n. 2, below.
The first issue of the journal Mind: a Quarterly Review of Psychology and Philosophy was published in January 1876. It contained Henry Sidgwick’s article ‘The theory of evolution and its application to practice’ (Sidgwick 1876). On p. 64, Sidgwick stated, ‘Moral sentiments, it is said, are impulses that tend to the maintenance of society; hence a tribe in which they were accidentally developed would tend to be victorious over other tribes in the struggle for existence.’ He then provided an account of how this view was incompatible with utilitarian ethics. In Descent 2d ed., pp. 130–1, CD had questioned how moral qualities could have arisen in a tribe when those who would be willing to risk their lives for others would perish in larger numbers than the others. He concluded that people would aid others at first out of self-interest, and that if continued over many generations this habit would be inherited, which would strengthen feelings of sympathy.
CD stayed with his brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin, in London from 27 April until 3 May 1876 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
Leonard Darwin, an officer in the Royal Engineers, had been planning to come home on leave from his post at Malta in the second half of May; see letter to C. S. Wedgwood, 20 April 1876 and n. 8. In the event, he came to Down on 8 May 1876 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Sidgwick, Henry. 1876. The theory of evolution and its application to practice. Mind 1: 52–67.


Sends Mind. Henry Sidgwick’s article ["The theory of evolution in its application to practice", Mind 1 (1876): 52–67] is so clear it makes CD feel "a muddle-headed man". But he disagrees with Sidgwick on the origin of morality within tribes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 52
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10478,” accessed on 31 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24