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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Andrew Smith   16 May 1871

16 Alexander Square | Brompton

16 May 1871

My Dear Darwin

In your second volume of your last work I find you mention having heard something from Mr Galton.1 Now this proves to me you must be acquainted with him and as I am very anxious to have some conversation with him I write to say you will greatly oblige me if you can give me his address. I am very desirous to hear what he can say on certain points connected with the Damaras of Great Namaqualand2 and I think it quite possible he may oblige me if I can only get at him for I have not his personal acquantance. I thought Moffat3 would have been able to tell me what I want but I find I am mistaken

I would like to have a little fight with with you and a great fight with Lubbock & M’Lenan touching what constitutes marriage among primitive people4   I agree with you to a great extent but I wholly disagree with them   I have never either seen or heard of savages who for a moment recognise any women as common to a community unless such as are by trade prostitutes, one chief going on a visit to another will besides supplying him with food and habitation for the time being also supplies him with a wife but although such is the practi[ce] with all as well as chiefs such practice if carried out without being in conformity with the desire of the husband would most probably cost the visitors life   I wish I had somebody in London to take over such matters now and then   I have no faith in what men state or write who have not seen something

Yours most faithfully | Andrew Smith—

CD annotations

1.1 In … mistaken 1.8] crossed pencil
2.1 I would] after opening square bracket pencil
Top of letter: ‘Descent of Man’ pencil


CD had referred to the work of his cousin Francis Galton in Descent.
Great Namaqualand is a territory on the west coast of southern Africa, now part of the Karas region of Namibia. On the ‘Damaras’ and other peoples living in this region during the nineteenth century, see Silvester and Gewald 2003, pp. 181–190. Galton had travelled in southern Africa (see Galton 1853).
Robert Moffat was a missionary who had worked in Africa and the author of Missionary labours and scenes in southern Africa (Moffat 1842) (ODNB).
CD discussed John Lubbock and John Ferguson McLennan’s views on the natural history of marriage and the practice of ‘communal marriage’ in Descent 2: 358–61. CD’s annotated copies of Lubbock 1870 and McLennan 1865 are in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 511–12, 559–61).


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

Galton, Francis. 1853. The narrative of an explorer in tropical South Africa. London: John Murray.

McLennan, John Ferguson. 1865. Primitive marriage: an inquiry into the origin of the form of capture in marriage ceremonies. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black.

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.

Moffat, Robert. 1842. Missionary labours and scenes in Southern Africa. London: J. Snow.

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.


Disagrees with CD and especially with Lubbock and McLennan about communal marriage. [See Descent 2: 361–3.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Andrew Smith
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 89: 179–80
Physical description
ALS 3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7760,” accessed on 18 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19