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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   6 [August] 18741

Trin. Coll.

Thursd night | 6.9.74

My dear Father,

I have read over & weighed very carefully what you say, & agree in the main.2 I send a proposed fair copy & if it quite meets your views, send it off; but the Review does’nt appear till 15th Oct, & was only published on 15th. July so do not hurry. I still feel the introductory passage about licentiousness quite as offensive as the ‘prostitution’ one:— by the bye, thro’out yr. note you speak of the licentiousness as the offence, but you clearly mean the latter.— The fact that the word theoretical is introduced, (where it is almost meaningless,) makes to my reading of it, but little difference.3

My present plan you see is to omit this quotation from myself & begin where you propose; thus giving chief prominence to what you consider the chief offence, whilst not omitting what seems to me equally offensive

I explained my reasons for not omitting the allusion to ‘offensive laws’ in my last.—and I fancy I can justify my reading of this Reviewer as the correct one—& therefore my reasons are unchanged.4

I have written a few words in red in yr. Murray letter;5 for it looked to me rather too much as if you identified Murray with his Editor6—but of course it is a mere suggestion on my part. I suppose you have quite made up yr. mind that you are justified in splitting with Murray if he does not consent to put the extremest pressure on the Editor. Of course yr. letter says, “get the letter inserted or either I or the Editor must cease to deal with you”.—

In all human prob. I shall come down by the 3.15 Exp. on Monday B’stoke 5.27—as the Litches will be away. & I shall only stay if I ca’nt see Dr. C on Monday; so I sha’nt telegraph if I ca’nt get away fr. London but shall come by same train on Tuesday.7

It is curious what an utter revulsion my attack has made in me. I ca’nt perceive that I’m either full of mucous or bile, have no tendency to sickness & very little flatulence, but my water has become thick after being clear for months & my digestion is bad in an entirely different way & I feel weak beyond anything—utterly languid at least in the afternoons. There’s no knowing however what tomorrow may bring

I’ve been writing a review of the obnoxious article (not of that part of course) wh. I shd. like to read to you & wh. I fully expect you’ll tell me to chuck in the fire—& I shall take yr. advice!

I had begun doing a little mathcs last week but it’s gone from me again now & I ca’nt tackle it again just yet.

I almost fear my Lake visit to the Cookson will have to fall thro’— the last great effort I made viz Holland, was such a fiasco8

I do hope my letter nearly meets yr. views—but I’ll go on changing & paring if you like

Yours affectionately | G H Darwin



My dear Sir.

I write to beg you, as an act of justice, to have inserted verbatum, in a conspicuous place in the next number of the Quarterly Review, the enclosed letter to the Editor from my son Mr George Darwin.

I further beg you to let me have an answer as soon as you conveniently can, in order that my son, if you refuse this request, may take any steps in his power by legal or other means to rebut the false and calumnious accusation made against him. I am further very anxious, on my own account to receive your answer as most unfortunately for me, if you determine that my son’s letter shall not appear, our relations must change. I think you will see that I have no choice on this head, if you will put yourself in my position, and imagine me to be the proprietor of a review in which according to your own judgment and that of all the friends whom you had consulted, a calumnious and groundless attack on your son had appeared and no reparation was granted. In this case you would I feel sure, no longer treat me as your friend, and you would free yourself at the earliest possible period from all business transactions with me. I have written to you not to the Editor, as I cannot expect fair treatment from him, after his employment of a gentleman to review my Descent of Man, who was notoriously pledged by two previous publications to review me in a hostile spirit.9

Anxiously waiting for your answer I remain my dear Sir, | Your’s faithfully | Charles Darwin.

P S. The delay in my son’s letter to the Editor has been caused by my having first heard of the article on the 25th. of July when I informed my son of it at Cambridge. We had then carefully to compare the article with the Review, and both of us to consult friends, so that we might feel certain that there was no shadow of an excuse for the imputation.

If you have time to spare I should be glad if you would read in the spirit of a Judge on the Bench my son’s essay, and see how absolutely groundless is the one odious charge of which we complain.


J | J Murray Esq.10

CD annotations

1.1 have … verbatum] del red ink; ‘induce the Editor of the Quarterly Review to’ added above red ink; ‘inserted’ altered red ink to ‘inserts’
1.2 of the Quarterly Review] del red ink
1.2 Editor] del red ink; ‘him’ added above red ink
2.2 my son] transposed red ink to follow ‘request,’
2.5 if you determine] ‘the Editor’ above del red ink ‘you’; ‘determine’ changed red ink to ‘determines’
2.5 our relations 2.6] ‘my’ above del red ink ‘our’; ‘with you’ interl red ink after ‘relations’
2.12 to you not to] ‘&’ added red ink after ‘to you’
4.2 I] ‘at once wrote’ interl red ink after
4.2 my son] altered red ink to ‘to my sons’; transposed red ink to before ‘at Cambridge’
5.2 my son’s essay] transposed red ink to follow ‘read’
5.2 is] altered red ink to ‘are’
5.2 one] del red ink
5.2 charge] altered red ink to ‘charges’


The month is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from G. H. Darwin, 5 August 1874. George probably wrote 6.9.74 in error. In 1874, 6 August was a Thursday (6 September was a Sunday).
George was responding to an attack on him in the Quarterly Review ([Mivart] 1874, p. 70). His fair-copy response has not been found; the published version appeared in the October 1874 issue of the Quarterly Review (137: 587–9), in the form of a letter dated 7 August 1874. In his anonymous attack, St George Jackson Mivart had written, ‘Now, however, marriage is the constant subject of attack, and unrestrained licentiousness theoretically justified.... Elsewhere he [G. H. Darwin] speaks in an approving strain of the most oppressive laws, and of the encouragement of vice in order to check population.’
See enclosure: George’s amendments have been reproduced as annotations at the foot of the letter. John Murray was CD’s publisher and the publisher of the Quarterly Review.
The editor of the Quarterly Review was William Smith.
B’stoke: Basingstoke. Dr C: Andrew Clark. The Litches: Henrietta Emma Litchfield, George’s sister, and Richard Buckley Litchfield.
George did go to stay with the Cooksons in the Lake District (see letter from Emma Darwin to Leonard Darwin, 15 September 1874 (DAR 239.23: 1.22)). They were the family of Montague Hughes Cookson.
Mivart had written a hostile review of Descent in Quarterly Review ([Mivart] 1871c); his book, Genesis of species (Mivart 1871a), was also critical of CD’s theories.
For the version of this letter that was sent to John Murray, see the letter to John Murray, 11 August 1874.


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

[Mivart, St George Jackson.] 1874b. Primitive man: Tylor and Lubbock. [Essay review of the works of John Lubbock and Edward Burnett Tylor.] Quarterly Review 137 (1874): 40–77.


Sends a draft of his letter to the editor of the Quarterly Review [137 (1874): 587–9], answering Mivart’s charges. Encloses draft of CD’s letter to John Murray, urging publication of GHD’s defence, with George’s amendments.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Trinity College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 97: C56–8; DAR 210.2: 39
Physical description
7pp draft 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9590,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

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