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Darwin, Charles
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED, TO FRIEDRICH MAX MÜLLER (“DEAR SIR”)
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307
Darwin, Charles
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED, TO FRIEDRICH MAX MÜLLER (“DEAR SIR”)
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations, including The Garrett Herman Collection: The Age of Darwin

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London

Darwin, Charles
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED, TO FRIEDRICH MAX MÜLLER (“DEAR SIR”)
responding to an article in the Contemporary Review, assuring him that he never supposed him the author of a hostile review in the Quarterly Review (“...I know that it was written by Mr Mivart, and the utterly false & base statements contained in it in relation to my son, are worthy of the man...”) and informing him that he has imputed to his son “a good many criticisms that are in reality Prof. Whitney's”, 2 pages, 8vo, headed stationery of Down House, 5 January 1875, framed and glazed, spotting
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Literature

DCP-LETT-9802

Catalogue Note

A GENEROUS LETTER WRITTEN IN THE MIDST OF A PROFOUND DEBATE ON THE ORIGINS OF LANGUAGE. Did human speech evolve from the instinctive cries of animals, as Darwin argued in The Descent of Man and elsewhere, or is language so utterly unique that its development cannot be explained by natural processes? Max Müller, Pofessor of Comparative Philology at Oxford, was a leading proponent of the latter view as this argument raged in the 1870s.

Darwin's son George wrote a defence of his father in the form of a review article on the American philologist William Dwight Whitney's Darwinism and Language, which had appeared in the November 1874 issue of the Contemporary Review. Müller responded with 'My Reply to Mr Darwin' in the January 1875 issue of the same journal, and this letter is Charles Darwin's private reply to Müller's article. Whitney added his own contribution to the controversy in the April 1875 issue of Contemporary Review, and Müller published a pamphlet, 'In Self Defence', later in the year, enclosing a copy with a letter to Darwin dated 25 October in which he summarised their difference: 

“...The point at issue between you & me is a very simple one: is that which can pass a certain line in nature the same as that which cannot? It may be, no doubt, & in that case the highest animal would simply be a stunted man. But this seems to me a narrow view of nature, particularly if we consider that everything organic is after all much more truly that which it can be than that which it is...” (DCP-LETT-10194).

Darwin and Müller were careful to distinguish their academic dispute from the far more rancorous argument that Charles and George Darwin had with St George Jackson Mivart, where an intense dispute over natural selection had been personalised by Mivart in an anonymous piece in the Quarterly Review of July 1874, in which he asserted that George Darwin approved of prostitution as a means to check population growth. As a result of this article Darwin broke off all contact with Mivart.

English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations, including The Garrett Herman Collection: The Age of Darwin

|
London