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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Lubbock   27 February [1870]1

High Elms

27 Feb.

Dear Mr. Darwin

I must apologise for leaving your note so long unanswered, but I am sure you will excuse my having done so.2

Tanner in his “Captivity” mentions that the Redskins sometimes commit suicide,3 but as far as I can remember it is very unusual among savages.4 The Fiji & Japanese customs are of course familiar to you. Other races are very indifferent to life, but that is not the same thing.

I do not think Savages ever regard suicide as a crime.

I send you the Abstract of the Phil. Trans for 1773, & hope it may perhaps answer your purpose.5 Pray keep it as long as you like.

I hope Mrs. Darwin is better.6

Believe me | Yours most sincerely | John Lubbock

C Darwin Esq

CD annotations

1.1 I must … done so. 1.2] crossed pencil
4.1 I send … better. 5.1] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘ p. 89 of my M. S.’7pencil


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to John Lubbock, 26 February [1870].
See letter to John Lubbock, 26 February [1870]. CD’s note has not been found.
Lubbock refers to John Tanner and Tanner 1830.
In Descent 1: 94, CD cited Lubbock for the observation that suicide was rarely practised by the ‘lower barbarians’.
This volume of the Philosophical Transactions contained an article on singing birds that CD referred to in Descent 1: 55 n. 33 (Barrington 1773).
The entry for Monday 14 February 1870 in Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) reads, ‘In bed till Thursday’.
CD refers to the manuscript of Descent.


Barrington, Daines. 1773. Experiments and observations on the singing of birds. [Read 22 April and 6 and 13 May 1773.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 63: 249–91.

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

Tanner, John. 1830. A narrative of the captivity and adventures of John Tanner (U.S. interpreter at the Saut de Ste. Marie,) during thirty years residence among the Indians in the interior of North America. Prepared for the press by Edwin James. London: Baldwin & Cradock.


Suicide is rare among savages [see Descent 1: 94].

Letter details

Letter no.
John Lubbock, 4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
High Elms
Source of text
DAR 80: 166–7
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7118,” accessed on 21 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18