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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Édouard van Beneden1   18 August 1875

Liège

le 18 Août 1875.

Mon cher et illustre Confrère,

J’ai pris aussitôt après la réception de votre lettre des renseignements sur M. Legrain, qui était pour moi un inconnu. Vous trouverez dans le Bulletin de l’Acad. R. de Médecine de Belgique (1867, IIIe. série, Tome I No. 1) la discussion du travail de ce Monsieur.— Il a été démontré par le Dr. Crocq, qui lui mérite toute Confiance, qu’il était matériellement impossible que M. Legrain ait fait les expériences qu’il annonce.—2 Tout cela est un indigne mystification qui a eu pour auteur un homme dont la moralité est caractérisée dans la même publication du Dr. Crocq.— Ce M. Legrain n’a jamais joui, du reste d’aucune considération; c’est un hableur, un blagueur, qui a pu en imposer un moment à quelques médecins peu sérieux, mais dont il n’a plus été question depuis sa fameuse équipée faite à propos de ses prétendus expériences sur les mariages consanguins.—

Veuillez recevoir, mon cher et illustre Confrère, l’expression de mes sentiments les plus respectueux et les plus dévoués. | Edouard Van Beneden.

CD annotations

1.3 1867 … No. 1] underl red crayon
1.3 No. 1] double underl red crayon
1.5 qu’il … annonce 1.6] underl red crayon
1.8 hableur] above pencil ‘boaster’
1.9 blagueur] above pencil ‘Humbug’
1.10 équipée] below pencil ‘trick’

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
CD’s letter to Beneden has not been found. In a paper presented to the Académie royale de médecine de Belgique (Legrain 1866), Jean Baptiste Legrain claimed to have interbred several generations of closely related rabbits without ill effects. The veracity of his account was challenged by Jean Crocq (Bulletin de l’Académie royale de médecine de Belgique 3d ser. 1 (1867): 26–49). Without referring to Beneden by name, CD used his information in the second edition of Variation in a note added to a discussion of the effects of inbreeding in rabbits (Variation 2d ed. 2: 100 n. 20). CD also recalled the episode in his autobiography (‘Recollections’, p. 425). See also letter to G. H. Darwin, [19 August 1875].

Bibliography

Legrain, Jean Baptiste. 1866. Recherches critiques et expérimentales relatives aux mariages consanguins. Bulletin de l’Académie royale de médecine de Belgique 2d ser. 9: 280–326.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Translation

From Édouard van Beneden1   18 August 1875

Liège

18 August 1875.

My dear and renowned colleague,

Upon receiving your letter I straightaway made enquiries concerning Mr Legrain, who was unknown to me. You will find a discussion of the work of that gentleman in the Bulletin of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium (1867, IIIrd series, Vol. I No 1).— It has been demonstrated by Dr Crocq, who for his part merits every confidence, that it was materially impossible for Mr Legrain to have carried out the experiments he announces.—2 All this is an unworthy hoax authored by a man whose morality is characterised in the same publication by Dr Crocq.— This Mr Legrain, besides, has never enjoyed any consideration; he is a braggart and a humbug, who managed to deceive certain irresponsible physicians for a while, but there has been no question of that since his famous lark concerning supposed experiments on consanguineous marriages.—

I remain, my dear and illustrious colleague, yours very truly. | Edouard Van Beneden.

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original French, see p. 324.
CD’s letter to Beneden has not been found. In a paper presented to the Académie royale de médecine de Belgique (Legrain 1866), Jean Baptiste Legrain claimed to have interbred several generations of closely related rabbits without ill effects. The veracity of his account was challenged by Jean Crocq (Bulletin de l’Académie royale de médecine de Belgique 3d ser. 1 (1867): 26–49). Without referring to Beneden by name, CD used his information in the second edition of Variation in a note added to a discussion of the effects of inbreeding in rabbits (Variation 2d ed. 2: 100 n. 20). CD also recalled the episode in his autobiography (‘Recollections’, p. 425). See also letter to G. H. Darwin, [19 August 1875].

Bibliography

Legrain, Jean Baptiste. 1866. Recherches critiques et expérimentales relatives aux mariages consanguins. Bulletin de l’Académie royale de médecine de Belgique 2d ser. 9: 280–326.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Summary

The unreliability of the work of J.-B. Legrain on consanguineous marriages [Recherches critiques et experimentales relatives aux marriages consanguins, extrait du Bull. Acad. R. Med. Belg. 2d ser. 9, no. 3].

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-10125
From
Édouard Joseph Louis Marie (Édouard) van Beneden
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Liège
Source of text
DAR 160: 134
Physical description
3pp (French) †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10125,” accessed on 23 September 2020, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-10125.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23

letter