skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Rolleston   5 September [1861]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Sept. 5th

My dear Sir

You are very kind in telling me not to write; & though I am too hard worked, it is a pleasure to me to write, otherwise I would not do so.— Your note is a real gold-mine of facts & suggestions, all new to me.2 I am very glad to hear of Gratiolets remark,3 for I remember being very anxious to know how the case was; & I remember wishing to know how early an organ modified in a very unusual manner in its class appeared, relatively to its homologue in other members of the same class: & I thought that a Bat’s wing would be good case, but I could not find any description.—4

Your cases of analogous variations are very valuable to me, & indeed all your note.— I do not know whether Craniologists can be at all believed, who assert that the Head alters in shape after peculiar studies in the adult.— I may mention a little personal anecdote. I worked hard during voyage of the Beagle & was a very idle sportsman before; & when I returned after 5 years, my Father almost immediately exclaimed, “Why the shape of your head is altered.”—

I was much interested by your papers in Nat. Hist. R.5 & I was pleased to see in Silliman’s Journal that your article was specially noticed.—6

I have had a hard morning’s dissection at some plants & am tired & will not amuse myself, by scribbling any more.

With hearty thanks for favours past & to come! | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin


Dated by the relationship to the letter from George Rolleston, 1 September 1861.
Letter from George Rolleston, 1 September 1861.
Gratiolet 1854. See letter from George Rolleston, 1 September 1861 and n. 8.
See Correspondence vol. 6, letters to T. H. Huxley, 5 July [1857] and 9 July [1857], and letter from T. H. Huxley, 7 July 1857.
Rolleston published two papers in the Natural History Review in 1861. The first, ‘On the affinities of the brain of the orang utang’ (Rolleston 1861a), was published in April. For CD’s opinion of the work, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [April 1861]. The second, ‘On correlations of growth, with a special example from the anatomy of a porpoise’ (Rolleston 1861b), did not appear until October 1861.
In the notice of the new series of the Natural History Review published in the July 1861 issue of the American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 32 (1861): 130–2, Rolleston 1861a was singled out, being described as ‘a well-considered and in every way most admirable communication.’


GR’s letter is a gold-mine.

Pleased to have Pierre Gratiolet’s comment on the embryology of greatly modified organs

and GR’s valuable cases of analogous variation.

Doubts craniologists, but recounts his father’s opinion that the shape of CD’s head was altered when he returned from the Beagle.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Rolleston
Sent from
Source of text
Royal College of Physicians

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3245,” accessed on 24 May 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9