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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Lubbock   21 July [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

July 21

My dear Lubbock

Very many thanks for your Book: I have read 4 or 5 Chapts. with extreme interest, too much interest for the good of my internal viscera. It makes me groan that you had not published 4 or 5 months ago: I shd have so profited & saved so much work.— But on some very important points for me, I shall be able & must modify what I have written.—2 I see that we have struck on some quotations & points in common; but it has surprised me, as on the ornamentation of savages, how largely we have collected our facts from different sources.—3

I see we differ a good deal about “moral sense” or rather approach the subject from different points of view; but hardly two men ever do agree on this perplexing subject.— I expect that your book will be a great success.—4

I have not yet even looked at the Thysanura, which I shall always love after your description of their playing like lambs & the sweet coyness of the females.—5

Your note of the 16th about the Census did not reach me till 10 oclock on the 18th when it was too late to answer. Moreover, I understood from Dr Farr, that the detailed manner of putting the query wd be left to his Office6

My dear Lubbock | Yours most truly | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to John Lubbock, 17 July 1870.
CD refers to Lubbock’s book The origin of civilisation and the primitive condition of man (Lubbock 1870a); CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 511–12). CD added several citations of Lubbock 1870a to notes in Descent.
For Lubbock’s discussion of ornamentation, see Lubbock 1870a, pp. 25–49; for CD’s account, see Descent 2: 338–54.
For Lubbock’s views on the development of the moral sense, see Lubbock 1870a, pp. 257–73; for CD’s account, see Descent 1: 70–106.
In ‘Notes on the Thysanura. Part III’ (Lubbock 1867b), Lubbock described the courtship behaviour of Smynthurus luteus in the insect order Thysanura; CD quoted the description in Descent 1: 348. CD’s annotated copy of the article is in the unbound journal collection in the Darwin Archive–CUL. Smynthurus luteus (now Deuterosminthurus sulphureus) is no longer considered an insect, but belongs to the order Collembola (springtails) in the class Entognatha.


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

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.


Thanks JL for his book [Origin of civilization (1870)], which he has read with "extreme interest". Wishes JL had published four or five months earlier as CD would have "so profited & saved so much work". CD will have to modify some of what he has written [in Descent]. Sees they differ a good deal about moral sense "but hardly two men ever do agree on this perplexing subject".

JL’s note of the 16th [see 7277] about the Census arrived too late for CD to answer.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Lubbock, 4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury
Sent from
Source of text
Dr N. Hammond (private collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7286,” accessed on 17 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18