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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. J. Romanes   16 June [1877]1

June 16.

I have deferred answering your letter until having had a talk with Mr. Galton about rudimentary organs. He thinks with me that if the normal size of a useful organ is maintained in a species, when natural selection is removed, the average size will tend to become progressively reduced by inter-crossing, and this down to whatever extent economy of growth remains operative in placing a premium on variations below the average at any given stage in the history of reduction.2

I think I thoroughly well know your views about natural selection. In writing the manuscript note, so far as I remember, I had in view the possibility which Huxley somewhere advocates, that nature may sometimes make a considerable leap by selecting from single variations.3 But it was not because of this point that I sent you the note; it was with reference to the possibility of natural selection acting on organic types as distinguished from individuals—a possibility which you once told me did not seem at all clear, although Wallace maintained it in conversation.4

I do not myself think that Allen made out his points, although I do think that he has made an effort in the right direction. It seems to me that his fundamental principle has probably much truth in it, viz. that æsthetic pleasure in its last analysis is an effect of normal or not excessive stimulation.5

Very sincerely and most respectfully yours, | Geo. J. Romanes.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to G. J. Romanes, 11 June [1877].
See letter to G. J. Romanes, 11 June [1877]. CD had commented on Romanes’s notes on the effect of intercrossing in swamping individual variations. In some of his recent work, Francis Galton had emphasised the role of discontinuous variation, or ‘sports of nature’, in evolution (see, for example, Galton 1869, pp. 367–70).
In a review of Origin, Thomas Henry Huxley had criticised CD’s insistence on the role of small variations in the production of new species, remarking that nature did ‘make small jumps’ ([T. H. Huxley] 1860, pp. 549–50). See also Correspondence vol. 7, letter from T. H. Huxley, 23 November 1859.
See letter from G. J. Romanes, 6 June 1877 and enclosure. On CD’s and Alfred Russel Wallace’s views concerning individual and group selection, see Richards 1987, pp. 167–8, 214–17.
CD had remarked on Romanes’s review of Grant Allen’s Physiological aesthetics (G. Allen 1877; see letter to G. J. Romanes, 11 June [1877] and n. 7).


Allen, Grant. 1877. Physiological aesthetics. London: Henry S. King & Co.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Galton, Francis. 1869. Hereditary genius: an inquiry into its laws and consequences. London: Macmillan.

[Huxley, Thomas Henry.] 1860a. Darwin on the origin of species. Westminster Review n.s. 17: 541–70.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Galton agrees with GJR about rudimentary organs.

GJR’s note referred to possibility of selection acting on organic types as distinguished from individuals.

Thinks Grant Allen has not made out his point [in Physiological aesthetics (1877)], but his fundamental principle probably has much truth.

Letter details

Letter no.
George John Romanes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
E. D. Romanes 1896, p. 55

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11004,” accessed on 1 October 2023,