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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   24 November 1873

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Nov 24 1873

My dear George

You have been a v. good man to send us so long a letter, which has amused us all.1 I am greatly pleased that you will undertake the Descent.2 I don’t think I shall have any part ready for 1 or 2 months. It is an awful job, not so much from the quantity which I shall write, as in consulting books & reading old letters   I doubt whether I shall be able to let you have any till all is completed. There will be no occasion for you to hurry, as the public must wait for the copies which Murray has sold.3 I will give you 2 cautions, viz. not to alter the strength of my expressions & 2ndly not to improve my style too much, as I deliberately think that it is best for each man to retain his own style, & that rather rugged sentences do not signify, if they are perfectly clear (i.e. as unlike Snow’s as possible.)4


George Howard Darwin had agreed to undertake the work to produce a second edition of Descent, detailed in the letter to G. H. Darwin, 20 November 1873.
CD’s publisher, John Murray, had printed a further 1000 copies of Descent in December 1871, bringing the total to 8000 (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter to R. F. Cooke, 17 November 1871, and Freeman 1977).
CD refers to his niece Frances Julia Wedgwood (known as Snow), whose style had been criticised ‘as wanting in simplicity & too full of allusion, not distinctly explained’ (see Correspondence vol. 16, enclosure to letter to John Murray, 25 May 1868). See also letter from G. H. Darwin to Emma Darwin, [before 24 November 1873] and n. 9.


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

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.


Pleased that GHD will help with second edition of Descent. Cautions him not to alter strength of CD’s expression or improve the style too much.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 18
Physical description
2pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9159,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21