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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Frederic Harrison   1 April [1871]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

April 1st

Dear Sir

I am much obliged for your note & especially for your writing at some length.—2 I will keep it & reconsider it whenever I have time to bring out a corrected Edition. At present the Printers are printing off so quickly, that I can make only trifling corrections.3

With respect to Beauty I can at present see nothing to do but to reiterate my caution that I do not mean by the word the highly complex & lofty notions implied by cultivated men. I will also endeavour to show, very imperfectly no doubt, that the sense or capacity of enjoying beauty is acquired.—4

Your remarks on the queries—selection of opinions & judgments for admiration by society seem very just. I daresay I have made too much of natural selection, though less than some who agree with me generally on such points.5

I shall be truly glad to receive & read carefully anything which you may publish on these subjects, & which you are so good as to say you will send me.—6

Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Descent (see n. 4, below), which was published in February 1871 (Freeman 1977).
The letter from Harrison has not been found.
Murray had already printed 4500 copies of Descent by April 1871, and a third printing was planned (Freeman 1977).
CD discussed beauty in Descent 1: 63–5.
CD discussed the role of natural selection in dictating what was worthy of admiration and blame in society in Descent 1: 165–6.
No further correspondence with Harrison on this subject has been found.


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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.


Discusses his concept of beauty. "I daresay I have made too much of natural selection".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Frederic Harrison
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.392)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7650,” accessed on 19 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19