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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Paget   29 January [1873?]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Jan. 29

My dear Paget

I would not have written to thank you, had I not received a letter yesterday from Mr Newman (lately of Guy’s) telling me of a case, which he had seen, of a child without any prepuce, whose father was a renegade uncircumcised Jew, but whose ancestors had all been Jews; & Mr Newman very naturally thought this a good case of inheritance with reversion.2 And now your letter shows how rash any such conclusion wd. be.3 Yet the case must happen not very rarely in Jew families, for they have in Germany a special term for children born circumcised.4

Yours most sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is conjectured from the printed stationery, which is of a type used by CD between mid-January 1872 and November 1874; and from the possible relationship between this letter and the letter to James Paget, 18 January [1873].
See Variation 2: 23. CD later cited Ashwin Conway Newman for this information in Variation 2d ed. 1: 467. Newman studied at Guy’s and qualified as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1871 (Medical directory 1872).
Paget’s letter has not been found, but in Variation 2d ed. 1: 467, CD wrote: ‘Sir J. Paget has seen five sons of a lady and one son of her sister with adherent prepuces; and one of these boys was affected in a manner “which might be considered like that commonly produced by circumcision;” yet there was no suspicion of Jewish blood in the family of these two sisters.’
See Variation 2: 23.


Has heard from Ashwin Conway Newman of Guy’s Hospital of a case of a child without any prepuce whose father was a renegade, uncircumcised Jew, but whose ancestors had all been Jews. Newman thinks this a good case of inheritance with reversion. JP’s letter [missing] now shows how rash such a conclusion would be.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Paget (1st baronet)
Sent from
Source of text
Wellcome Library (MS 5703/37)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8752,” accessed on 24 June 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21