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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. T. Knowles   31 July 1874

Bassett Southampton

July 31 1874

Dear Sir

I fear that you never republish articles which have appeared in foreign journals, But one on Language has just been published in the N. American Rev. for July, by a distinguished philologist Prof. Whitney, who has sent it to me.1 In this he answers in a very able manner, as it appears to me, Max Müller’s views which were published by you,2

As a writer in the July number of our Quarterly has abused me in strong words, “amazing ignorance” &c for what little I have said on the development of language,3 I much desire to see Whitney’s article republished in England.

I hope that you will not think it impertinent on my part to offer gladly to pay the expenses of printing, if this wd make any difference in the publisher’s inclination to let it appear in so excellent a journal as the Contemporary.

I would send the article for your judgment, but if you have a fixed rule against republication this wd only cause you additional trouble.

One word in answer wd suffice—

If you consent to republish I wd at once write to Prof. Whitney, & take the responsibility of the affair on my own shoulders—

Dear Sir | yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin


Knowles was the editor of the Contemporary Review. William Dwight Whitney had published a review article, ‘Darwinism and language’ (Whitney 1874), that focused mainly on Friedrich Max Müller’s ‘Lectures on Mr. Darwin’s philosophy of language’ (Max Müller 1873). CD’s heavily annotated copy of Whitney 1874 is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The only article by Max Müller that had been published in the Contemporary Review was ‘On the results of the science of language’ (Max Müller 1872). It did not deal with the question of the origin of language, but rather with the origin of some of the languages of the Indo-European family and their relation to each other.
An anonymous article in the Quarterly Review ([Mivart] 1874b) had referred to CD as not exhibiting ‘the faintest indication’ of understanding that rational speech could not exist without intellectual activity, discussed other writers in the same vein, and concluded, It is almost enough to make one despair of progress when one finds such real ‘nonsense’ solemnly propounded to a learned audience, and when such amazing ignorance shows itself in men who are looked up to as teachers!


Max Müller, Friedrich. 1872. On the results of the science of language. Contemporary Review 20: 125–40.

Müller, Hermann. 1873. Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten und die gegenseitigen Anpassungen beider. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntniss des ursächlichen Zusammenhanges in der organischen Natur. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Whitney, William Dwight. 1874. Darwinism and language. [Essay review of works by August Schleicher and Friedrich Max Müller.] North American Review 119: 61–88.


Asks whether it would be possible for Contemporary Review to republish an article on language from North American Review [119 (1874): 61–88] by William Dwight Whitney which answers F. Max Müller; would pay expense of printing if necessary.

CD has been abused in the Quarterly Review for "amazing ignorance".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Thomas Knowles; editor of Contemporary Review
Sent from
Source of text
Wellcome Collection
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9577,” accessed on 25 October 2021,

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