skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   [27 July 1874]1

Abinger Hall | Wotton Surrey (Post Town) | Gomshall (Station) S.E.R.

My dear G.

I have been thinking during my whole walk on the scurrilous libel on you.2 It is has occurred to me (& Erasmus & Hensleigh3 agree at first blush) that it wd be a good plan to lay the case before an eminent Counsel, not necessarily for Prosecution of the author, but that he shd. compare the Review with your Article, which he wd. naturally do & express an opinion how far Reviewer is justified. But I do not know whether Counsel will allow this opinion to be published. If so, & the opinion was clear that the Reviewer has falsified your statements, then to send it to the Quarterly Rw. & demand its publication; which I suppose wd. be refused. In this case publish it elsewhere & even as an advertisement. It will then be for me to consider whether I must not cut Murray & a nice perplexity I shd be in about my rights on the stereotyped editions.—4

Think well over this. What I fear is that by selecting separate sentences, the Reviewer will perhaps be able to justify his essentially false statements.

Yours affect | C. Darwin


The date, ‘July 27. 74’, was added on the letter by a contemporary hand.
CD refers to the attack made on George in an anonymous essay review ([Mivart] 1874, p. 70), in which George’s comments in his paper ‘On beneficial restrictions to liberty of marriage’ (G. H. Darwin 1873a) were described as approving of oppressive laws and encouraging vice.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin and Hensleigh Wedgwood.
John Murray was the publisher of the Quarterly Review and had been CD’s publisher for all his works from Origin onwards. The identity of the review’s author (St George Jackson Mivart; see Wellesley index) was not known to CD. CD had agreed to have the sixth edition of Origin stereotyped, a process by which metal plates were made from moulds of movable type, allowing new impressions of a book to be made cheaply (Correspondence vol. 19, letter to R. F. Cooke, 4 November 1871).


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

[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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Wellesley index: The Wellesley index to Victorian periodicals 1824–1900. Edited by Walter E. Houghton et al. 5 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1966–89.


Advises GHD to get an eminent counsel. If counsel’s opinion is that the reviewer [Mivart, in "Primitive man", Q. Rev. 137 (1874): 40–77] has falsified GHD’s statements, GHD should send the opinion to the Quarterly Review and demand publication, and if refused publish elsewhere. Then CD must decide whether to cut John Murray [publisher of Q. Rev.] which will put CD in a nice perplexity [over his rights to the stereotyped editions of past works].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Abinger Hall
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 25
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9568,” accessed on 4 August 2021,

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