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Letter 5339

Royer, C. A. to Darwin, C. R.

[Apr–June 1865]

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    Notes on the caste system of India; its influences on form and habit.


L'Election naturelle est contenue pratiquement dans tout l'ensemble de ces lois, et surtout dans tout ce qui concerne le régime des castes où l'on doit reconnaître des races probablement différentes et très inégales dans leur développement humain, du moins à l'origine.

Ce même principe de choix ressort des prescriptions et des conseils donnés par les legislateurs aux hommes des castes nobles dans le choix de leurs femmes. Il leur est enjoint d'éviter de s'allier avec des femmes qui portent les signes néfastes tels que d'avoir les yeux chassieux ou autres difformités ou infirmités Ce sont peut-etre les préceptes de ces lois qui ont transformé les instincts, les habitudes et les caractères physiques de la race indo-germanique.

Si tel est l'esprit général de ces lois, esprit qu'on retrouve dans tout leur ensemble, les paragraphes où il est plus explicitement exprimé sont les suivants.

liv. III. par. 6 et suiv. 10--14--19.

liv. IX. par. 72--73 et 178

liv X. par. 5 jusqu'à 49 -- 66 à 73.


-- -- `Election naturelle' is virtually contained in the whole of these laws, and especially in all that relates to the caste system, within which one must recognise races that are probably different and very unequal in their human development, at least at their origin.

This same principle of choice is the result of the prescriptions and recommendations given by the law makers to men of noble castes concerning the choice of their wives. They are enjoined to avoid marrying women who show signs of ill-omen such as rheumy eyes or other deformities or infirmities. Perhaps these are the precepts of a law that has modified the instincts, habits and physical characteristics of the Indo-Germanic race.

If such is the general spirit of these laws, a spirit that recurs throughout them all, the paragraphs in which it is most explicitly expressed are the following.

book III. par. 6 and following 10--14--19.

book IX. par. 72--73 and 178

book X. par. 5 up to 49 -- 66 to 73.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 5339.f1
    For a translation of this memorandum, see Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix I. There is an incomplete translation of this memorandum by Emma Darwin in DAR 80: B42--3.
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    f2 5339.f2
    The date range is established from the relationship between this memorandum and the letters in which CD and Emma Darwin mention that CD is working on the translation of the second French edition of Origin (see n. 4, below).
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    f3 5339.f3
    The phrase `élection naturelle' appears to have been used as a translation of `natural selection' first by Edouard Claparède (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Edouard Claparède, 6 September 1862). However, `sélection' was already in use as a technical term in French zoology (Grand Larousse de la langue française). In the first French edition of Origin, Royer translated `natural selection' as `élection naturelle' (Royer trans. 1862). In the second French edition, `sélection' was substituted for `élection' at CD's request, although Royer expressed her disapproval of this change in a footnote (Royer trans. 1866, p. 95 n.; see also J. Harvey 1997, pp. 76--7). Royer's footnote referred to a paragraph that CD had inserted to defend the term natural selection against criticisms on various grounds, including its implication of conscious choice (Origin 3d ed., pp. 84--5). Royer's preference for the word `élection', which may be translated as `choice', reflected her belief in the control of nature by an intelligent power (C. Blanckaert in Tort 1996, p. 3746).
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    f4 5339.f4
    The memorandum is evidently a note for the second French edition of Origin (Royer trans. 1866). In the first edition of her translation (Royer trans. 1862, p. 57), Royer inserted a note comparing animal breeding practices to the strict marriage laws governing Hindu castes. This memorandum appears to be an expansion of that earlier note, and refers to the Hindu `Laws of Menu' or `Manu' described in the Sanskrit text Manava-Dharma-Sastra, which was translated into French in 1833 (Loiseleur Deslongchamps trans. 1833). CD probably made corrections to the manuscript of Royer trans. 1866 between April and June 1865 (see letter to John Murray, 31 March [1865], letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 [April 1865], and letters from Emma Darwin to H. E. Darwin, [6 June 1865] and [21 June 1865] in DAR 219.9: 27, 32). See also `Journal' (Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix II). CD evidently rejected the additions proposed in this memorandum, as they do not appear in the published version of Royer trans. 1866; there is a copy of this work in the Darwin Library--Down.
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    f5 5339.f5
    Royer also discussed marriage selection and its effect on human evolution in the first French edition of Origin (see Royer trans. 1862, Préface). For a discussion of Royer's translations of Origin and CD's reaction to her editorial insertions, see J. Harvey 1997, pp. 62--9, 76--9. See also Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Asa Gray, 10--20 June [1862], letter to Armand de Quatrefages, 11 July [1862], letter from Edouard Claparède, 6 September 1862, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 11 September [1862]. In a letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Darwin, [6 June 1865], in DAR 219.9: 27, Emma reported that CD was at work `on the verdammte Mlle Royer whose blunders are endless'.
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    f6 5339.f6
    The reference is to the Hindu `Laws of Menu' (see n. 4, above). The text is also discussed in Lucas 1847--50; CD read Lucas 1847--50 in 1856 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV), and there is a heavily annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Library--CUL (see Marginalia 1: 513--23). CD refers to Lucas 1847--50 in an annotation to Emma's translation of this memorandum (see n. 1, above). `Prosper Lucas about Beautiful men marrying beautiful in caste—'. The translation is also annotated `Man' in red crayon, indicating that CD kept this material for possible use in Descent; however, he did not refer to it in any of his published works.
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    f7 5339.f7
    This section of book 3 of the `Laws of Menu' discusses the rules of marriage, including caste restrictions for four named Hindu castes, and the signs of family or individual deformity or disease that one should avoid in a marriage (see W. Jones trans. 1869, pp. 40--1). CD wrote `I have not looked' against this reference on Emma's translation of the memorandum (see DAR 80: B42--3).
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    f8 5339.f8
    In book 9 of the `Laws of Menu', paragraphs 72 and 73 discuss conditions under which a marriage to a woman with an undetected physical defect, or a marriage contracted through deception, can be annulled; paragraph 178 designates a son `begotten through lust' by a high-caste man on a low-caste woman as a `living corpse' (see W. Jones trans. 1869, pp. 200--1, 211--12). On Emma's translation of the memorandum CD crossed through this and the subsequent citation (see n. 9, below) and added the word `Nothing' (see DAR 80: B43).
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    f9 5339.f9
    These passages define the status of children born into various Hindu castes. The last passage cited (paragraphs 66 to 73) outlines the effect of the parents' good or bad conduct on the possibility of offspring from a mixed caste rising to a superior caste (see W. Jones trans. 1869, pp. 228--35). For CD's reaction to these passages, see n. 8, above.
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