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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Rolleston   22 February 1871


Wednesday | Feb 22. 1871.

My dear Sir,

I write to thank you very much for the copy of your work on the “Descent of Man” which came into my hands on Sunday—1

I have read a great deal of it already and with much pleasure— If I read rightly the two and a half lines at the bottom of the 403rd. page of your second Volume, they are an expression of dissent from certain of the teachings of Mr J. S. Mill, and contain a doctrine very necessary for these times—2

I trust that you will not compare me to a fly settling on the abraded spots in some large and magnificent animal if I point out one or two small matters which I think others may fix upon.

At p. 28. The supra condyloid foramen is not the same thing as the foramen of which Busk & Broca speak, and which is placed between the two condyles and connects when it exists (as it does within my own experience very frequently in Romano-British humeri) the two fossæ in which the olecranon & coronoid process of the ulna respectively play.3

“P. 54” in note 38 p. 28. should be 159.4

At p. 26. The greater liability of the wisdom teeth to decay is not confirmed by Tomes “Dental Physiology” pp. 140. 149. 192.5

You will think that I am possessed by a printer’s devil when I draw your attention to the fact that in your exquisitely beautiful story of the lapdog licking his mistress’s face the final s has got agglutinated to the f of face! see p. 78.6

P. 68. I fear that Dr McCann who is no doubt a patriotic Scotchman will attack you with severity for not having mentioned that Burns (whom he will call “the immortal Burns”) anticipated Professor Braubach in his views as to the dog’s regarding man as man looks upon God—7

At p. 21. The ear of the Porcupine is wonderfully like ours. I have often thought of this similarity but do not, the least, know how to explain it.8

With my very sincere acknowledgments | I am | Yours very Truly | George Rolleston

CD annotations

1.1 I write … God— 8.4] crossed pencil
4.1 At … play. 4.5] ‘Correct’ added pencil
5.1 “P. … 159.] ‘—??’ added pencil
6.1 At … 192. 6.2] ‘partly corrected’ added pencil
Verso of p. 1: ‘26 Abbey Place’9pencil


Rolleston’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Descent (Appendix IV).
In Descent 2: 403, CD wrote, ‘There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring.’ Rolleston refers to John Stuart Mill, who was in favour of birth control (ODNB).
In the second printing of Descent, CD altered the text in Descent 1: 28–9 to distinguish between the supra-condyloid and the inter-condyloid foramen. Rolleston refers to George Busk and Paul Broca.
CD made this correction in the second printing of Descent.
In the second printing of Descent, CD added that the greater liability of wisdom teeth to decay was denied by some dentists (Descent 1: 26). Rolleston refers to John Tomes and Tomes 1848, although p. 192 seems to be an incorrect reference.
This error was corrected in the second printing of Descent. Printer’s devil: the apprentice or errand-boy in a printer’s office (OED s.v. printer).
James McCann was the author of Anti-Darwinism (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 September 1869 and n. 4), and was cited by CD in Descent 1: 63. In Descent 1: 68, CD cited Wilhelm Braubach and Braubach 1869. There is an annotated copy of Braubach 1869 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Robert Burns’s opinions on dogs’ views on humans were first published as a reported conversation in H. Duncan 1836, pp. 308–9.
In Descent 1: 21, CD commented that the ears of chimpanzees and orang-utans were ‘curiously like those of man’.
Twenty-six, Abbey Place, St John’s Wood, London, was Thomas Henry Huxley’s address.


Braubach, Wilhelm. 1869. Religion, Moral & Philosophie der Darwin’sche Artlehre nach ihrer Natur und ihrem Character als kleine Parallele menschliche geistiger Entwicklung, etc. Neuwied and Leipzig: J. H. Heuser’sche Buchhandlung.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Tomes, John. 1848. Course of lectures on dental physiology and surgery: delivered at the Middlesex Hospital School of Medicine. London: John W. Parker.


Applauds CD’s expression of dissent from J. S. Mill’s view of differences of mental powers of men and women [Descent 2: 326–9]. Sends some corrections.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Rolleston
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 87: 15–16
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7506,” accessed on 22 November 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19