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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. H. Howorth   [27 January 1874]1

2 St James Square. | Manchester.


My dear Mr Darwin.

I have been staying from home for a fortnight my wife having been ill so that I only received your letter yesterday:2 I am very sorry that partially through my stupid forgetfulness & partially through the political excitement we have been passing through that I overlooked writing to you to tell you not to send back the Blue book but to keep it.3 If you have not sent it ⁠⟨⁠off pray⁠⟩⁠ do not do so. It is much more useful to you than to me. You altogether misjudge my very small position as a student   It is I assure you a most modest one. The only subject upon which I have worked out new lines is in asiatic ethnology a dry and repulsive field of inquiry.4 I need not say therefore that to be mentioned in a footnote to one of your books I feel to be a distinction.5 I have tried to find the man who mentioned the Sandwich islands to me but have failed to do so. He was a stranger to me & I met him at the Literary & Philosophical Society.6 In the ⁠⟨⁠crude⁠⟩⁠ paper which I enclose which was written some time ago & only recently printed on page 221. is a reference to some remarks of Mr Coulter on the Indians of California on this subject which if you have not seen may interest you.7 In regard to the extinction of the St Kilda islanders to which I refer in the same paper, my friend Dr Morgan has written an elaborate paper.8 Dr Angus Smith who was there last year tells me that a remedy has been partially tried with success which consists in sending the women when enceinte to the Hebrides where they remain till the children are 6 months old

If I can get his paper on the subject I will send it you.9 I copy the following from an article on Madeira in the New Quarterly Magazine. It may interest you if you have not heard of the fact.10 “The rock pigeon is not uncommon on the sea cliffs   a more curious bird is a large wood pigeon, indigenous to Madeira larger than the British species fat & good to eat—in fact better in this respect than any of the game birds of the islands. This pigeon, in strict accordance with the most recently expounded Darwinian principles, has developed a singularly long central toe, more than an inch longer than the corresponding member in the common ring dove a living memorial one may presume, of the time when the island was one huge forest. The rock pigeon of Madeira, which needs not to clasp the branches of trees has toes of only a reasonable length”. Have you seen also some articles now coming out in the Art Journal which are illustrated & working out the notion that the typical English countenance & expression has changed very much since the Tudor period.11 I think they would interest you.

I have again to ask you to excuse my crudities and to express the hope that you cant make too much use of me in any way down here   I remain | Yours very respectfully | Henry H Howorth

CD annotations

2.10 Have you … period. 2.13] triple scored red crayon


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from H. H. Howorth, 3 January [1874] and the reference to the political excitement (see n. 3, below). The Tuesday following the dissolution of parliament on 26 January 1874 was 27 January.
CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter from H. H. Howorth, 3 January [1874].
Howorth had sent CD a copy of a report prepared for the New Zealand government on the state of the aboriginal inhabitants (Fenton 1859; see letter from H. H. Howorth, 3 January [1874] and n. 2). Official reports, bound in blue covers, were customarily referred to as blue books. The ‘political excitement’ refers to the general election that ran from 31 January to 17 February 1874 after William Ewart Gladstone announced the dissolution of Parliament on 24 January (The Times, 24 January 1874, p. 8). Parliament was dissolved on 26 January 1874 (The Times, 26 January 1874, p. 9).
Beginning in 1869, Howorth published a twelve-part paper on the history of nomadic movement to the west from Asia (Howorth 1869–74).
See letter from H. H. Howorth, 3 January [1874] and n. 2. CD referred to Howorth in Descent 2d ed., p. 183.
Howorth refers to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. Although he became a member of the society only in 1884, non-members were encouraged to attend meetings (Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society 23 (1883–4): 77). The Sandwich Islands are now Hawaii.
Thomas Coulter had remarked in his ‘Notes on Upper California’ (Coulter 1835, p. 67) that the aboriginal population in California had declined, and suggested that a major factor in the decline was high female mortality in children. Howorth referred to Coulter’s remarks in a paper read in 1872 and published in 1874 (Howorth 1872b).
Smith’s paper on his visit to St Kilda was published in 1875; for the section on the loss of children, see Angus Smith 1875, p. 266. No copy of the article has been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
The quotation, from ‘Winter in Madeira’ ([Crawfurd] 1874, p. 419), is given accurately, except for minor differences in punctuation. The emphasis is Howorth’s.
The first of four articles on the transformation of the British face appeared in the January 1874 issue of the Art-Journal (Simcox 1874).


Coulter, Thomas. 1835. Notes on Upper California. [Read 9 March 1835.] Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 5: 59–70.

[Crawfurd, John Oswald Frederick.] 1874. Winter in Madeira. New Quarterly Magazine (1874): 406–23.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Fenton, Francis Dart. 1859. Observations on the state of the aboriginal inhabitants of New Zealand. Auckland: New Zealand Government.

Howorth, Henry Hoyle. 1869–74. The westerly drifting of the nomads from the fifth to the nineteenth century. Journal of the Ethnological Society of London 1 (1869): 12–34, 378–87; 2 (1870): 83–95, 182–92, 469–76. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 1 (1872): 226–53; 2 (1873): 205–27; 3 (1874): 145–73, 277–99.

Morgan, John Edward. 1861. The falcon among the fulmars; or, six hours at St. Kilda. Macmillan’s Magazine 4: 104–11.

Simcox, George Augustus. 1874. The transformation of the British face. Art-Journal 13: 21–2, 57–60, 313–14, 345–8.

Smith, Angus. 1875. A visit to St. Kilda in 1873. Good Words 16: 141–4, 264–9.


Sends paper ["Strictures on Darwinism, pt 2", J. Anthropol. Inst. 3 (1874): 208–28].

Refers to articles in the Art Journal on changes in English countenance since the Tudor period.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Hoyle Howorth
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 279
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9210,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22