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Darwin Correspondence Project

To L. H. Morgan   9 July [1877]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

July 9th

My dear Sir

I thank you sincerely for your very kind, long & interesting letter.2 I write in fact merely to thank you, for I have nothing else to say. I have lately been working so hard on plants, that I have not had time even to glance at H. Spencers recent work, & hardly to do more than glance at your last work.3 But I hope before long to find more time: It is, however, a great misfortune for me that reading now tires me more than writing,—that is if the subject sets me thinking.— I am as great an admirer as any man can be of H. Spencer’s genius; but his deductive style of putting almost everything never satisfies me, & the conclusion which I continually draw is that “here is a grand suggestion for many years work.”.—4

Your last work must have cost you very much labour & therefore I infer that you are strong & well.—5 I can assure you that I have by no means forgotten my short & very pleasant interview with you.—6

Believe me, my dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from L. H. Morgan, 26 June 1877.
In his letter of 26 June 1877, Morgan had criticised Herbert Spencer’s views on the evolution of the family in the first volume of his Principles of sociology (Spencer 1876–96), and in two articles in Popular Science Monthly (Spencer 1877).
CD made the same point in ‘Recollections’, pp. 404–5.
Morgan had sent CD a copy of his Ancient society (Morgan 1877; see letter to L. H. Morgan, 9 June 1877).
Morgan had visited Down on 9 June 1871 (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter to L. H. Morgan, 7 June 1871 and n. 1).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Morgan, Lewis Henry. 1877. Ancient society, or, researches in the lines of human progress from savagery through barbarism to civilization. London: Macmillan.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.

Spencer, Herbert. 1876–96. The principles of sociology. 3 vols. London: Williams and Norgate.

Spencer, Herbert. 1877. On the evolution of the family. Popular Science Monthly 11: 129–42, 257–71.


CD admires Herbert Spencer’s genius but not his "deductive style" of expression.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Lewis Henry Morgan
Sent from
Source of text
University of Rochester Libraries, Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11044,” accessed on 27 October 2021,