skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To St G. J. Mivart   21 April [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Ap. 21st

My dear Sir

Will you forgive me for troubling you with 2 or 3 questions.—

In some M.S. after discussing the bearing of the amount of modification & the lines of descent on the terms used in classification, & after giving your class. of the Primates in the Phil. Tr., I go on to add, that on genealogical principles alone, & considering whole organisation man probably diverged from the Catarhine stem a little below the branch of the anthropo: apes (i.e. higher up than in your diagram in Phil. Tr.)2 I have then added in my M.S. that this is your opinion, but I cannot remember whether I derived this from you from conversation or inferred it after reading your 2 great papers.—3 Is this your opinion? & may I say (if so) that you tell me so.— I conceive that the line of descent may be as just indicated, & yet from the amount of modification suffered by man, he may perhaps deserve to be called a distinct sub-order or Family.—4

Secondly you describe in Zoo. Tr. in your paper on Lemurs (in which, by the way, I found much very interesting to me on rudiments—variability &c) you describe great differences in the shape of muzzles of the genera; but I want to know whether that structure of the nose, which led Owen to use term “Strepsirhine” (not that I understand how the nose is twisted) holds good in all the genera.—5

Lastly, Büchner in one of his compilations says Rütimeyer has found a fossil ape uniting Catarhine & platyrhine characters; do you know anything about this? I have seen no such account, & I thought that his eocene monkey was apocryphal.6

I left London before your return so could not profit by your kind invitation to call on you.—7 Pray forgive me for being so troublesome & believe me | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from St G. J. Mivart, 22 April 1870.
CD refers to his manuscript for Descent and to Mivart’s paper ‘On the appendicular skeleton of the primates’ in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Mivart 1867); Mivart’s diagram is on page 425. See Descent 1: 185–99.
CD refers to Mivart 1867 (see n. 2, above), and probably to Mivart 1866a, a paper in the Transactions of the Zoological Society of London on the appendicular skeleton of Simia. Simia is a Linnean category roughly equivalent to the modern suborder Haplorrhini except that it excludes the genus Homo.
See Descent 1: 194–5.
CD refers to Mivart’s paper ‘On the Lemuroidea’ in the Transactions of the Zoological Society of London (Mivart 1866c). Some classifications of primates include, as well as catarrhine and platyrrhine species, strepsirrhine (literally ‘twisted-nose’) species, which have moist tips to their noses and a cleft upper lip bound to the gum (e.g., lorises and lemurs; Allaby ed. 1999). Richard Owen used the term strepsirrhine (or strepsirhine) in Owen 1866–8, 2: 290.
Ludwig Büchner described Ludwig Rütimeyer’s discovery of a fossil ape in Büchner 1868, pp. 202 or 204 (different printings of the edition are paginated differently). This passage is scored in CD’s annotated copy of Büchner 1868 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 97–8). Rütimeyer described the fossil ape Caenopithecus lemuroides in Rütimeyer 1862, pp. 88–92. On page 92, Rütimeyer noted that the fossil ape had characteristics in common with modern-day lemurs and New-World (platyrrhine) apes. There is a copy of Rütimeyer 1862 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
See letter from St G. J. Mivart, 8 March [1870]. CD was in London from 5 to 12 March 1870 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Büchner, Friedrich Karl Christian Ludwig. 1868. Sechs Vorlesungen über die Darwin’sche Theorie der Verwandlung der Arten und die erste Entstehung der Organismenwelt. Leipzig: Theodor Thomas.

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.

Owen, Richard. 1866–8. On the anatomy of vertebrates. 3 vols. London: Longmans, Green & Co.

Rütimeyer, Ludwig. 1862. Eocaene Säugethiere aus dem Gebiet des Schweizerischen Jura. Neue Denkschriften der allgemeinen Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für die gesammten Naturwissenschaften 19: 1–98.


On amount of modification and lines of descent in determining the position in man.

Reference to StGJM’s article "On the appendicular skeleton of the primates" Phil. Trans. R. Soc. [157 (1867): 299–430],

and his [and James Murie’s] article on lemurs ["On the anatomy of Lemuroidea"] Trans. Zool. Soc. [7 (1872): 1–114].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
St George Jackson Mivart
Sent from
Source of text
Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums
Physical description
ALS 4pp & photocopy

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7718A,” accessed on 18 May 2022,

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