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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. J. Aubertin   16 January 1872

10 York St   St James’ Square

January 16. 1872

Dear Mr Darwin,

I hope that you are getting on pretty well in health now, & that a “Happy New Year” has opened for yourself & Mrs Darwin & all your family—

I was dining with a friend of mine on Sunday—a Mr. Gooden1 who married a cousin on my mother’s side, & he expressed a great desire to lay a suggestion of his before you, & asked me to take that liberty.

He has, in the course of his life suffered very much from that disease in the hair which the Faculty now call “Porigo decalvans”2 which exhibits itself in the simple falling off of the hair either in great round patches, or even altogether all over the body—leaving the skin perfectly clean & without the slightest surface discolouring. He is now very much better, but his mind having been turned to the subject, he has lately observed the same disease in a favourite dog belonging to one of his daughters; & therefore, knowing your doctrine that disease is communicable from Man to the Ape,3 it has occurred to him that this “Porigo Decalvans” in the hairy animal, the dog, as well as in man, may prove some link between the two, & show or indicate that Man in passing out of his original “hairy-animal-state”, which you attribute to him, may have brought with him this old disease, pertaining to that first state, & being common still to all hairy animals.

I think this is as nearly as possible his proposition, & he is very anxious to know what you would say about it— The disease I believe is parasytical, & is connected with some fungus in the skin which Sulphur destroys.

Now pray do not trouble yourself upon this subject— if at your leisure you could without bothering yourself some day send me a few lines I should be only too much obliged to you.

Captn. Burton was dining with me the other day. He has been much struck by the mode in which you differ with him about the subject of what “beauty”, in the abstract, is to various nations—savages included: & is most anxious to be introduced to you— However, that would be for March next, if I might some day bring him down. I told him you did not converse long.4

Faithfully yours | J. J. Aubertin.


Mr Gooden has not been identified.
Porrigo decalvans is now known as alopecia areata (Butterworth’s medical dictionary). The ‘faculty’: i.e. the medical profession.
See Descent 1: 11–12.
Richard Francis Burton apparently did lunch with CD before 20 May 1872, but the exact date is not known (letter from W. W. Reade, 20 May 1872). For CD’s remarks on different concepts of beauty, see Descent 2: 338–54. CD cited Burton on p. 346.


A friend of JJA’s wants CD’s opinion on whether the disease porigo decalvans (hair falling out in clumps) demonstrates the link between man and dogs and has continued to evolve with man after he passed out of his "hairy-animal state".

Capt. [Richard?] Burton disagrees with CD’s notion of beauty in the abstract, and would like to meet him.

Letter details

Letter no.
John James Aubertin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, York St, 10
Source of text
DAR 159: 127
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8160,” accessed on 18 July 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20