Having avoided writing specifically on the evolution of man in the twelve years since the first publication of his theory of evolution by natural selection, Darwin agonised greatly over The Descent of Man. He asked his twenty-seven year-old daughter Henrietta to review each chapter, and she amended the manuscript with her own notes and suggestions in order to ease both her father's concerns about his style and the highly controversial argument. She read and corrected the whole manuscript, firstly whilst in England and later as it was posted to her, chapter by chapter, as she travelled through Europe.
Henrietta had worked with her father from her teenage years, reading proof-sheets for both Variation and Orchids. The series of affectionate letters between them throughout 1870 and 1871 show how highly Darwin valued her assistance. In the spring, having received a portion of his amended manuscript for the second chapter, he writes:
"Your corrections and suggestions are excellent. I have adopted the greater number, and I am sure they are very great improvements...You have done me a real service; but, by Jove, how hard you must have worked, and how thoroughly you have mastered my MS... Your affectionate, and admiring and obedient father, C.D."
When it came to publication, Darwin was convinced that it was Henrietta's input which encouraged the favourable reviews of the book's "lucid vigorous style", and wrote to thank her once again for her assistance. He ended his letter, "Goodbye my very dear coadjutor and fellow-labourer" (20 March 1871). Recalling her contribution to Descent many years later, Henrietta wrote, "I do not think that he ever used to forget to tell me what improvement he thought I had made" (Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, 1877).
This lot is being sold to benefit the Charles Darwin Trust, to fund the gift of Quentin Keynes’ remaining collection of important Darwin and Wallace books and manuscripts to the Linnean Society, for use in their educational programmes.
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