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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   30 May 1874

Trin Coll

Sat. May 30. 74

Dear Father,

I don’t intend to give up the Descent, as I think I can stick to it however bad I am. I think it will be no use to stop Clowes sendg. proofs as I shall like to have a reserve by me, & if I shd. go abroad I might take several with me1    The MS of notes 95 Chap II & 79 Ch. III are not sent— in the latter the printers seem in doubt as to a number. You might look up the reference perhaps, p 55 note 82

Comptes rendus des Séances ? sciences—it is thus in former edit.2 I will return the proofs when done. I shall read them twice.

Thursday & yesterday were the two worst days I’ve had since March—and altho’ I had had a bad turn up of bile on Thursday morning I had another in the afternoon which was certainly the worst I have ever had—bile mucous & blood— The quantity which comes up is certainly on the increase. Except that I had to do so, I hardly know how I supported existence. As I moon about a good deal on these occasions in my room—for I ca’nt sit still, I was utterly fagged out & slept heavily— Today I’m a good deal better, tho’ I began with yellow bile before breakfast & feel very much ‘played out’. I’m getting awfully thin, as is to be expected. I suppose I shall be a little better now for a day or two, but I can’t say I expect anything from this new scheme of Dr. C’s.3

By the bye the ‘corals’ have come & I’m getting it bound.4

There is a mad cuckoo here who I suppose can’t get a mate— He is very untuneful & sings cuck cuck cuck sometimes 5 times before the ‘coo’—very staccato & not at all in good tune. Today he is singing cuckoo, both notes exceedingly staccato & quite ugly. He sings more than any other I ever heard & I heard him the other morning at 3 oclock going on with his cuck cuck cuck for ever so long.? Has’nt he failed in getting mated because he sings so badly.—

Mother’s housewife5 has come & looks very nice. The Pall Mall of last night refers to a modified childmurder amongst the Kalmuks, as they don’t take so much care of the female as of the male infants6

Yours affectly | G. H. Darwin

CD annotations

1.1 I don’t … with me 1.3] crossed red crayon
1.3 The … II 1.4] enclosed in square brackets, red crayon, ink; del ink
1.4 79 … twice. 2.2] crossed ink


George was working on the proof-sheets of the second edition of Descent. William Clowes & Sons were the printers used by CD’s publisher, John Murray (see letter to G. H. Darwin, [29 May 1874]).
In the second edition of Descent, chapter 2, note 95 (p. 60), is a reference to Variation 2d ed. 2: 280 and 282; the text was changed from ‘p. 280, 282’ in the first edition (Descent 1: 152 n. 80) to ‘pp. 280, 282’. Chapter 3, note 79 (p. 96), refers to John Lubbock’s Prehistoric times 2d ed. (Lubbock 1869). Note 82, p. 55, refers to ‘"Comptes-rendus des Sciences," &c.’ In the first edition, the journal title was given as ‘"Comptes Rendus des Séances", &c.’ (Descent 1: 146 n. 72). The full title is Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences.
The physician Andrew Clark evidently restricted George’s diet (see letter to G. H. Darwin, [29 May 1874]).
George’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for the second edition of Coral reefs (see Appendix IV).
Housewife (or hussif): a pocket sewing-kit.
The report about the Kalmouk (now Kalmyk) people in Astrakhan (south-west Russia) appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette, 29 May 1874, pp. 4–5, and stated: ‘The last census shows that the Kalmouk population is gradually diminishing, and that the mortality among the women is much greater than among the men; there were 68,000 men and only 51,000 women. This is attributed to the circumstance that much more care is taken of male than of female children.’


Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

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

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.


Intends to keep working on [Descent, 2d ed.] proofs despite his illness.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Trinity College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 36
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9475,” accessed on 27 October 2020,

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