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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. W. Howitt    [September 1874]1

I have not at present any subject on which I want information from Australia, but I will not forget your obliging offer.2 If the suggestion has not already occurred to you, will you allow me to make one viz.—to keep full & accurate notes of the mental powers, such as the capacity of abstract reasoning etc. etc. of the Australians.3 Also of their quasi-religious beliefs,—their curious marriage laws; & all other such points. With your means of obtaining information, & with your scientific habits of thought, you could certainly write a very valuable memoir or book, in the course of a few years.4


The month and year are given in the printed source for this letter.
No letter from Howitt to CD has been found.
CD briefly discussed the physical characteristics and customs of Australians in Descent 2d ed.
Howitt had been made a member of the Kurnai people in Gippsland, Victoria, and was admitted to their ceremonies (ODNB). He published on Australian ethnography (for example, Fison and Howitt 1880, Howitt 1904).


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

Howitt, Alfred William. 1904.The native tribes of south-east Australia. London: Macmillan and Co.

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.


Thanks Howitt for his offer of information from Australia and suggests that Howitt keep detailed notes for a future publication.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred William Howitt
Source of text
M. H. Walker 1971, pp. 221 and 338 n. 25

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9617F,” accessed on 21 January 2022,

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