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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. W. Buckland   10 October [1881]1

Down Beckenham

Octer. 10th.

Dear Madam

It is extremely kind in you to have taken so much trouble in narrating the case of the eggs.2 But the statement is indeed quite incredible. If I were to see one of the eggs with the numbers on it, I should simply conclude that they had been artificially done in some manner, which I could not fathom. But is, perhaps, more probable that some slight affection round the oviduct caused a circular mark, and the imagination of the owners filled in the figures. I have seen petrifactions which by illiterate persons were considered strikingly like various objects; whereas there was no real close resemblance. Even in the case of the human species, physiologists do not believe that the imagination of the Mother can affect the infant. The brother of the famous John Hunter, who had charge of a very large lying-in-hospital had every woman questioned before her confinement, whether anything had greatly affected her mind, and her answer was written down, and out of several thousand cases in no one instance did any mark on the child correspond with what the mother had previously said.3 Hunter told my father4 this in the last century.

I beg leave to remain, Dear Madam, | Yours faithfully and much obliged | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from A. W. Buckland, 9 October 1881.
John Hunter’s brother was William Hunter.
CD’s father was Robert Waring Darwin.


Does not believe imagination of mother can affect new-born infant.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Anne Walbank Buckland
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 176
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13386,” accessed on 16 June 2024,