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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   5 August 1874

Trin. Coll

Aug 5. 74

My dear Father,

I am very sorry to say that I do not like your form of denial, although I have tried my best to fall into yr. views; & this has really vexed me more than the thing itself.1 In the first place from not having the Contemp. by you, you did not see that the ‘oppressive laws’ referred to are not my proposed laws (wh. of course any one might call oppressive if they liked), but are the German Communist laws—there being not even distant allusion to my laws on either pp 424 or 5.2 I cannot therefore repudiate the prostitution part without repudiating the oppressive laws—& if I do not repudiate the latter, I may be taken to admit that I do quote them approvingly, and as the whole hangs together in one paragraph, such admission would extend to the prostitution.3

2ndly. and this I am very strong on, I mind the charge of theoret. justification of licentiousness & attack on marriage quite as much as the other, & shd. be very loath to omit the repudiation.4 It is as utterly false; the whole object of the article being to advocate greater strictness. I must then quote the whole passage from the quarterly.

I send a form of denial embracing these points, & which strikes me as more emphatic, and in which I have tried to adopt yr. idea as much as I can.5

I have counted the words & it would occupy a page & 3 or 4 lines of the Quy. allowing for quotation being in smaller type.6

I think I shall be up to my usual mark today, tho’ I’m sure I’ve lost weight & don’t think I shall ever pick it up, unless Dr. C7 will allow me something fattening. I shall see him en route. From examining what I passed Dr. H.8 said he was sure there was no disease of bowels

Yrs | G H Darwin


CD had drafted a response on George’s behalf to St George Jackson Mivart’s anonymous attack on George’s essay on marriage in the Contemporary Review (G. H. Darwin 1873a, [Mivart] 1874; see letter to G. H. Darwin, 1 August [1874]).
In order to forestall the criticism that people would not accept his proposed restrictions on marriage, George described even more oppressive marriage laws that had existed in the past. Mivart had suggested that George approved of these past customs ([Mivart] 1874, p. 70).
Mivart had written, ‘Elsewhere he speaks in an approving strain of the most oppressive laws, and of the encouragement of vice in order to check population’ ([Mivart] 1874, p. 70). George had written, ‘Prostitution was not merely tolerated [in Teutonic communistic bodies], but was secretly promoted as a check to over-population, as in Japan at the present day’ (G. H. Darwin 1873a, p. 424). The claim about Japan was also made by CD in Descent 1: 134.
Mivart had written, ‘Now, however, marriage is the constant subject of attack, and unrestrained licentiousness theoretically justified’ ([Mivart] 1874, p. 70).
The enclosure has not been found.
Mivart’s review and George’s riposte (G. Darwin 1874b) both appeared in the Quarterly Review.
Andrew Clark.
Dr H. has not been identified.


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

[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.


Regrets he cannot follow the line of denial CD suggests. Explains why he must defend himself against charge that he approves of oppressive laws.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Trinity College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 38
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9585,” accessed on 31 July 2021,

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