Letter icon
Letter 7644

Anne Barnard to Darwin, C. R.

30 Mar 1871


On reading Descent was reminded of having seen, on a visit to an idiot asylum with her father [J. S. Henslow], a woman with long pointed ears.


Bartlow | Leckhampton | Cheltenham

March 30 th. 1871—

Dear Mr. Darwin

Though I have not seen you since I was a child, the only excuse Ishall make for troubling you with a letter, is that your “Descent ofMan” has recalled to my mind something which I think may interest you.f1On Octr. 20th. 1852, I visited the Idiot Asylum at Colchester,f2 with myfather, Prof: Henslow— In the room of “Incurables”, a girl waspointed out to us, who had very remarkable ears—“like a donkey’s”—theattendant said, but that was an exaggeration. After the lapse ofso many years, I cannot pretend to describe them very accurately,especially as the sights in the room were too horrid for us to care toremain there many minutes   The impression left on my mind is, thatthe ears rose to an unusual height, and were pointed somewhatlike thisf3


It is possible that there may be doctors or attendants still at theAsylum, who may remember her, and be able to give you more accurateinformation about her, if you think it worth while to enquire, it isnot impossible that she may be still alive.

I fear however, that there is—or was then, a limit to thenumber of years spent by any patient in the Asylum, and it is thereforevery unlikely that you would find her there now—

Believe me to remain | Yrs. truly | Anne Barnard

DAR 160: 42



Barnard would have been between 3 and 6 years old while CD was astudent at Cambridge (1828–31). Barnard’s father, John StevensHenslow, was professor of botany at Cambridge and was CD’s teacher andfriend. Barnard refers to Descent.
The reference is to the Eastern Counties Idiot Asylum, Essex Hall,Colchester (see Coller 1861, p. 615).
In Descent 1: 22–3, CD discussed pointed ears in humans and otherape species.
Maximized viewPrint letter