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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Wallis Nash   9 September 1871

Downswood, | Beckenham

9th. Septr. 1871


I do not know whether you will consider the points which I venture to trouble you with worthy of notice, but as they seem to me to shew a marked exception to the law of inherited qualities being developed at maturity in the sex of the parent, I thought I would trouble you with a note of them, without any introduction beyond a careful reading of your books.1

I have a pure breed of Gordon setters in Devonshire; the father of the strain is a very fine bred, small, keen, dog, with marked traits in finding birds, having a peculiar action of the tail, and a curious gesture in pointing: the mother is a larger limbed, sedate, quiet bitch, with a much more commonplace style in the field: Coll. Wigsell of Saunderstead Court,2 had a brace of puppies, dog & bitch, from me this spring, born on Valentine’s day, & having left their mother at six weeks old—

I saw them at work today in the field: the Keeper,3 who knows my dogs well, asked me if I noticed any peculiarity about them: the bitch puppy was just finding birds; her action, even to the peculiar wave of the tail, & the attitude of pointing was exactly that of the old dog, whom she most markedly resembles in appearance, & shortly afterwards we observed the dog puppy, which is exceedingly like his mother in appearance, finding birds in her style—

I should not have troubled you with this note were it not that I have several times before noticed in sporting dogs that a resemblance in appearance to one parent, no matter of which sex, generally carries with it a similarity in character

I must apologize for taking up your time with this note, which of course needs no reply;

I am Sir | Yours faithfully | Wallis Nash

Charles Darwin Esqre. | &c &c


Nash probably refers in particular to Origin and Variation.
Atwood Dalton Wigsell. Sanderstead Court is in Surrey.


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.


In hunting dogs behavioural and physical traits are often inherited together and from either male or female parent.

Letter details

Letter no.
Wallis Nash
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 172: 3
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7928,” accessed on 17 September 2023,

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