RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1931. [Letters to Lewis Henry Morgan, 1870-2, 1877]. In Bernhard J. Stern, Lewis Henry Morgan- social evolutionist. Chicago, pp. 28-9; 48; 85-6; 106.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 4.2022. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here. Some of Morgan's works are recorded in Rutherford, 1908. Catalogue of the library of Charles Darwin now in the Botany School, Cambridge. (on Darwin Online):

The American Beaver and his works. 8vo. Philadelphia, 1868.

Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family. 4to. Washington, 1871.

The complete letters with important editorial notes are published in Correspondence.

"Morgan, Lewis Henry, 1818-81. American anthropologist. Corresponded with CD and paid a visit to Down House in 1871 recounted in Extracts of Lewis Henry Morgan's European travel journal, 1937, pp. 338-9, transcribed in Darwin Online." (Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe, Darwin: A Companion, 2021)

[page] 28


Morgan also wrote to Darwin in disparagement of Spencer's work [26 June 1877]; and the ever friendly Darwin, busy with his plants, replied in a letter dated July 9, 1877, from Down, Beckenham, Kent:

I thank you kindly for your very kind, long and interesting letter. I write in fact merely to thank you, for I have nothing else to say. I have lately been working so hard on plants, that I have not had time yet to glance at H. Spencer's recent work, and hardly to do more than glance at your last work. But I hope before very long to find more time. It is, however, a great misfortune for me that reading now tires me more than writing, that is, if the subject sets me thinking. I am as great an admirer as any man can be of H. Spencer's genius; but his deductive style of putting almost everything never satisfies me, and the conclusion which I eventually draw is that "here is a grand suggestion for many years' work."

[page] 29

["]Your last work must have cost you very much labour and therefore I infer that you are strong and well. I can assure you that I have by no means forgotten my short and very pleasant interview with you.["]


[page] 48

When Morgan was In England, he made friendly visits to Charles Darwin and John Lubbock. A letter from Darwin, dated June 7, 1871, Down, Beckenham, Kent, indicates that his visit to Darwin was brief due to the latter's weak physical condition:

I shall have great pleasure in seeing you here on any day which will suit you; but please do inform me before hand. The best route is to leave Charing Cross by the 11:15 train for Orpington Station S. E. R. which is 4 miles from my house; and you will arrive here a little after 12:30. We will lunch at one o'clock and you can return by the 2:20 train. It grieves me to propose so short a visit, but my health has been very indifferent during the last week, and I am incapable of conversing with anyone except for a short time. I shall have great pleasure in seeing you…

Morgan's visit established a cordial friendship between the two men that was prolonged through correspondence. When Darwin's sons came to America, they carried letters of introduction by Morgan, as Darwin's letter of June 14, 1872 [1871], reveals: I really do not know how to thank you for your extra ordinary kindness in having taken such trouble for my sons. Your instructions about their route and your splendid supply of introductions will be invaluable to them….

[page] 85

It was in England that this work of Morgan's received most attention and provoked most discussion. Charles Darwin, in friendly letters, acknowledged the receipt of the book:

I am much obliged for your extremely kind letter and your present of the concluding chapter which I am sure I shall read with the greatest interest…I fully agree with your remarks as to the extreme importance of studying the habits and institutions, if they can be so called, of savages. I have had lately to attend a little to the subject, as I have sent a MS. to the printer for a work on the "Descent of Man," but I have chiefly to treat of veritably primeval times before man was fully man. With much respect for your admirable investigations, believe me…2

2 Dated Down, Beckenham, Kent, August 11, 1871. [1870]

[page] 86

I have received this morning your grand work on Consanguinity, etc. and I am astonished at the labor which it must have cost you. I am greatly indebted to this proof of your kind feelings toward me and I remain yours very sincerely.1


1 Dated Down, Beckenham, Kent, January 20, 1872.

[page] 106

Morgan's criticism of the use of the word "instinct" anticipated modern psychology more closely than did Darwin's analysis of instinct in his Descent of Man, where he paid tribute to Morgan's study of the beaver but remarked, "I cannot help thinking, however, that he goes too far in underrating the power of instinct."1


1 Descent of Man, p. 84.

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