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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. F. McLennan   21 August 1871

14 Old Burlington St. W | London

21 Augst. 1871.

Dear Mr. Darwin,

I have seen Mr. Youman & thank you for sending him to me. I do not see that other than good results can spring for any author from an arrangement for having his book brought out in America even shd. he get no “profit”.1 It happens that in despair of finding time to complete my new book soon I have been considering suggestions offered from various quarters for a New Edition of Primitive Marriage which is out of print & in regard to which Yr. own friendly observations must have helped to set people on their enquiry.2 I have promised in the event of resolving on a new Edition to let Mr. Youman have plates for the American Market.—3

I hope you are now comparatively well. When lately at Sir John Lubbock’s it was a disappointment to me to find you were from home.4 I hope that next year I may sometimes have the pleasure of meeting you at the house of my very old & excellent friend Litchfield in whom I am certain you will feel happy as having him for son in law.5

I shd. now be in the North but am detained here by illness—a bad cold ending in congestion of the left-lung which however is yielding to sharp treatment.

Believe me Yours very sincerely | J. F. Mc Lennan.


McLennan refers to Edward Livingston Youmans and Youmans’s International Scientific Series of publications. See letter from G. H. Darwin, [17 July 1871] and n. 2.
Primitive marriage (McLennan 1865) was reissued as Studies in ancient history (McLennan 1876). CD cited McLennan 1865 in Descent as an authority on mating and marriage customs and on infanticide in native cultures, describing the book as ‘extremely valuable’ (Descent 2: 358, 363, 365, 374). McLennan probably also refers to The patriarchal theory (McLennan 1885) although this was not published until after his death.
No American edition of McLennan 1865 was published.
Lubbock was a neighbour of CD’s; he lived at High Elms, Down, Kent.
Henrietta Emma Darwin was engaged to be married to Richard Buckley Litchfield; the marriage took place on 31 August 1871 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


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

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

McLennan, John Ferguson. 1876. Studies in ancient history: comprising a reprint of primitive marriage: an inquiry into the origin of the form of capture in marriage ceremonies. London: Bernard Quaritch.

McLennan, John Ferguson. 1885. The patriarchal theory: based on the papers of the late John Ferguson McLennan. Edited by Donald McLennan. London: Macmillan.


Thanks CD for helping with arrangements for an American edition [of Primitive marriage (1865)].

He is an old friend of CD’s son-in-law, R. B. Litchfield, and of John Lubbock.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Ferguson McLennan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Old Burlington St, 14
Source of text
DAR 171: 19
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7913,” accessed on 17 September 2023,

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