Items in the Gender Collection

John Murray to Charles Darwin (1st July, 1870)
Darwin had included the word ‘sexual’ in the title of an earlier draft of Descent: Murray was relieved when it was omitted.

John Murray to Charles Darwin (28th September, 1870)
Murray suggests that Darwin tone down a passage on the delicate subject of female sexual desire.

Charles Darwin to John Murray (29th September, 1870)
Darwin queries which part of his manuscript Murray considered “coarse”, confirming in the process that a section on female sexual desire was not his work but a quote from John Hunter’s Essays and Observations on Natural History (1861).

The Descent of Man (London, 1871), Vol.1, p. 273
The final version of the passage in which Darwin used a cleansed, polite discourse to describe a courtship process which better reflected Victorian notions of modest, passive femininity and sexually-driven, active masculinity.

Francis Darwin (circa. 1870)
Like all of Darwin’s children, Francis helped his father from a young age. As a child he and his siblings made observations and collected plant samples. Later in life Francis, classically-educated in Latin, proved a useful source of help for…

Charles Darwin to Francis Darwin (30th August, 1867)
Darwin asks his son, Francis, and his Cambridge University friends to check his Latin. Latin was not Darwin's strong point and he frequently relied on his sons and colleagues to check his efforts (see letter to George Robert Gray, below).


Charles Darwin to George Robert Gray (6th December, 1838)<br /><br />
Darwin writes to Zoologist George Robert Gray asking him to proof read his Latin in the Birds section of The Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle (1839).

Andrew Smith to Charles Darwin (26th March, 1867)
Andrew Smith, an army surgeon stationed in South Africa, discusses Khoisan or ‘Hottentot’ notions of beauty in women; in particular their preference for women with large posteriors and lengthened ‘Nymphae’ (inner labia). Too sensitive for a…

The Descent of Man (London, 1871), Vol. 2, p. 345, n. 53
A discussion of Khoisan or ‘Hottentot’ notions of beauty in women, veiled in Latin to protect the sensibilities of Darwin’s popular audience.

Henrietta Darwin (date unknown)
Henrietta made a significant contribution to her father’s work, most notably as editor of Descent. Darwin’s correspondence suggests that she was selected as editor less for the civilizing, feminine influence she might exert on his work and more…