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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Harris   10 February 1874

Iselipps Manor, | Northolt, | Southall. | W.

10th. February 1874.

Dear Sir,

You were so obliging as to say some time ago, on my writing to you on the subject, that you would afford me your valuable aid by allowing me to refer to you on certain points of interest & importance on which you cannot but be regarded as the first authority of the day, & upon which I have ventured to touch in a work on the general subject of man upon which I have been for a long time engaged, & in which I have taken the liberty of making several quotations from, & references to, your own very able & masterly performances.1

I am more especially desirous of submitting to you what I have ventured to advance in the accompanying sheets which I send you herewith by book post, on the subjects of

The Theory of Instinct —pp. 181, 182.
Instinctive animal being —183–185.
Nature of Instinctive Intelligence —185.
Instinctive Impulses from Sensation –192, 193–194.
Equality in capacity among animals —195.
Language of animals— —193, 194, 199.
Absence of curiosity in animals —196.
Spiritual being the necessary } ——197–202.
vehicle of Instinct
Animals have no notion of Death —206.2

Any suggestions, corrections, or notes that you may be pleased to make, will be highly prized.

The opinion as to the future existence of animals, which has been told by several men of high authority, from some of whose writings I have quoted, appears to me, if adopted, to afford considerable support to your grand theory, as removing a great barrier between the constitution & nature of man & those of animals.3

But the suggestion of course I merely offer with the greatest submission.

With respect to what I have wanted to throw out respecting Animals having no fear of Death, this notion I was led to adopt after much & patient observation. For this purpose I have several times attended Abattoirs on the Continent, & watched closely the actions of cattle of different kinds.4

When the work is completed, I shall venture to ask you to do me the honor of accepting a copy of it.

I have been extremely delighted with your work on Expression in Man & Animals, which you were so obliging as to send me.5 Every artist as well as every naturalist, should study it attentively.

Believe me, Dear Sir, | Your very faithful & obliged servt. | George Harris

C. Darwin Esq. FRS. | &c. &c. &c.


CD had written to thank Harris for sending his Theory of the arts (Harris 1869; see Correspondence vol. 20, letter to George Harris, 4 October [1872]). Harris was working on his Philosophical treatise on the nature and constitution of man (Harris 1876); in it he referred frequently to CD’s publications.
The page numbers given here do not correspond exactly to those in the published version, though they are close; they are all from the first volume of Harris 1876. Harris believed that animals were endowed with varying degrees of spiritual being depending on how much they resembled humans, and that consequently they too had immortal souls (Harris 1876, 1: 199–210). Harris cited Joseph Priestley and René Descartes, among others.
See Harris 1876, 1: 204–8.
See Harris 1876, 1: 208–9
Harris’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Expression (see Correspondence vol. 20).


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

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Harris, George. 1876. A philosophical treatise on the nature and constitution of man. 2 vols. London: George Bell & Sons. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, & Co.


Sends about 15 sheets on instinct from his book [A philosophical treatise on the nature and constitution of man (1876)] for CD’s comments.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Harris
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 106
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9280,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

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