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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Lawson Tait   2 March 1876


March 2. 1876

My dear Sir

Many thanks for your note.1 I took an extraordinary amount of trouble over two cases and wrote dozens of long letters, and the evidence was so shaky that nothing less than a case closely inspected by highly competent witnesses, and recorded at the time, would in my opinion be sufficient2

In haste, | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

I was most cruelly vexed at my mistake, yet I made formerly as I thought careful enquiries.3


In Variation 2: 14–15, CD had reported cases of supernumerary digits that had been amputated and grew back. While making corrections for the second edition of Variation, he corresponded with Annie Dowie and Alice Margaret Lane Fox about these cases (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter to Annie Dowie, 16 August [1875], and letter from A. M. Lane Fox, 3 August 1875). After consulting with James Paget, he questioned the evidence for the regrowth of amputated digits in Variation 2d ed. 1: 459.
CD collected information on polydactylism for chapter 12 of Variation in 1863 (see, for instance, Correspondence vol. 11, letter to T. H. Huxley, 16 February [1863]).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.


Thanks RLT for his letter. CD took much trouble over his two cases [regrowth of amputated supernumerary digits, in Variation] but the evidence was shaky.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Lawson (Lawson) Tait
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 527
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10414,” accessed on 20 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24