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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Lawson Tait   25 February 1877

7, Gt. Charles Street, | Birmingham.

Feb 25/77

My Dear Sir,

At page 106 of “Descent of Man” I find a sentence: “as I have so lately endeavoured to shew that the social instincts—the prime principle of man’s moral constitution39.—” & a footnote:

‘The Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, &c p. 139. But I cannot find in any list of books under your name one with that title & I never heard of it1  Can you tell me its full title & where to get it? I am amazed at my ignorance of it!

Yours ever, | Lawson Tait

I am engaged in a short “Kritic of the Individuum” which may interest you & of which I hope to send you a copy in a day or two.2 It is intended as a mite towards evolutionary theosophy.


In Descent 1: 106, CD paraphrased the following passage from Aurelius 1862: ‘The prime principle then in man’s constitution is the social.’ The title of the work by Marcus Aurelius is usually translated as Meditations.
The article by Tait has not been found; he had recently written on the evolution of morality (L. Tait 1876; see Correspondence vol. 24, letter from Lawson Tait, 4 August [1876] and n. 3).


Aurelius, Marcus. 1862. The thoughts of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Translated by George Long. London: George Bell & sons.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Wants to know how to obtain The thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, mentioned in Descent [1: 106].

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Lawson (Lawson) Tait
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 38
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10868,” accessed on 25 July 2024,