skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   11 August 1874

Bassett Southampton.

Aug 11— 1874

My dear Sir

From our long & friendly intercourse, I hope that I am justified in asking a favour of you. It is that you should use your influence with the Editor of the Quarterly Review1 to insert, as an act of justice, the enclosed letter from my son Mr G. Darwin in a conspicuous place & verbatim, in the next number of the Review.2 If you can spare time to read, with the spirit of a judge on the bench, my son’s short essay (I send it by this post for the chance of your being able to do so)3 you will see how absolutely false is the serious charge that he approves “of the encouragement of vice to check population,” as well as the odious insinuation which follows.4 I earnestly beg you to let me have an answer as soon as you conveniently can, in order that my son, if his request is not granted, may take any steps in his power, by legal or other means, to rebut the calumnious accusation.

I have written to you & not to the Editor as I cannot expect fair treatment from him without your aid, 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.5

I remain | my dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin


Murray was the publisher of the Quarterly Review; the editor was William Smith.
The enclosure has not been found; George Howard Darwin’s letter was published in the Quarterly Review 137 (1874): 587–9, in the October issue.
CD may have sent an offprint of George’s original article on marriage from the Contemporary Review (G. H. Darwin 1873a), or George’s initial riposte to the hostile comments on it that appeared in the Quarterly Review ([Mivart] 1874). On George’s initial riposte, see the letter from G. H. Darwin, 29 July 1874, and the letter to G. H. Darwin 1 August [1874]); the text has not been found.
See [Mivart] 1874, p. 70. The ‘odious insinuation’ was the claim that there was ‘no hideous sexual criminality of Pagan days’ that might not be defended on the principles advocated by the school to which George belonged.
Mivart had written a hostile review of Descent in Quarterly Review ([Mivart] 1871b); his book Genesis of species (Mivart 1871a) was also critical of CD’s theories.


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.


Asks JM, as a favour, to use his influence with the Editor of Quarterly Review to print George Darwin’s answer to the charge made by the author of "Primitive man" [St George Mivart] that GD approved "of the encouragement of vice to check population".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms. 42153 ff. 48–9)
Physical description
LS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9598,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

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