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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   [5 or 6 August 1874]1

[Bassett, Southampton.]

My dear George

I have no objection to send your letter as it is.2 There is in fact only one accusation which it seems to me necessary for you to rebut. ie about licentiousness. “He elsewhere.—”3 The sentence about nameless crimes is directed against the school to which you belong & is only an insinuation against you.4 Your approval of oppressive laws is quite insignificant.— I have carefully read the Contemporary.— William, I, & you all understood oppressive laws differently.—5

I was partly led to think that the extract for the Q. had better commence at “He elsewhere”, because we here think you cut a poor figure on the insanity question—when given so baldly as you do.—6 The only point in your present letter which I regret much is your not making the sole direct attack on you, ie about licentiousness much more prominent than any other point.—7 The readers of the Q. will only just glance at your letter & certainly will not turn back to the old Q. & still less to your articles; & this makes me wish to see it as short as possible. But your letter is now very short & forcible, tho’ not so short as I shd like to see it.

Yours affectionately | C. Darwin

As soon as I receive a fair copy signed & dated I will forward it to Murray.—8

P.S. How wd it be in your allusion to the article in the Q. to say something like this—?

“an article evidently from the pen of a well-known zoologist, who is not a philologist,”

I shd like still better, but it wd not perhaps be fit,— “an article evidently from the pen of a well-known zoologist, who is not a philologist & who in his openly published works admits the principle of evolution, but covertly attacks with bitterness those who uphold the same principle

I think that “who is not a philogist” makes your contrast stronger, & I shd like M. to see that we know who is author.9


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters from G. H. Darwin, 5 August 1874 and 6 [August] 1874.
George had drafted a letter responding to an attack on him by St George Jackson Mivart in the Quarterly Review (see letter from G. H. Darwin, 5 August 1874). The draft has not been found.
Mivart had written, ‘There is no hideous sexual criminality of Pagan days that might not be defended on the principles advocated by the school to which this writer belongs’ ([Mivart] 1874, p. 70).
In his essay on marriage in the Contemporary Review, George had described oppressive marriage laws of former times in order to justify his contention that his own proposals could eventually be implemented (G. H. Darwin 1873a, pp. 424–5). Mivart had assumed that George approved of these older laws ([Mivart] 1874b, p. 70). CD was staying with his eldest son, William Erasmus Darwin, at Southampton.
John Murray was the publisher of the Quarterly Review.
George did not adopt CD’s suggestions. Mivart, the author of Genesis of species (Mivart 1871a), in which he accepted the operation of natural selection but only in the context of an innate guiding force, had published an anonymous hostile review of Descent ([Mivart] 1871b).


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.


Has no objection to sending GHD’s letter as it is. The only accusation it seems necessary to rebut is about licentiousness. Regrets this is not made more prominent.

Gives some suggestions for GHD’s reply to Mivart’s attack.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 28, 30
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9588,” accessed on 6 August 2021,

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