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Darwin Correspondence Project

To F. S. B. François de Chaumont   3 February [1873]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Feb 3d

Dear Dr. De Chaumont

I am much obliged to you for sending, & to Dr. MacDonald for having allowed you to send to me his paper.— I have read it with great interest; but I do not know enough of the lower organisms for my judgment to be of any value. A dozen years ago the Council of the R. Soc. wd have shuddered in horror at such a communication; but now I daresay it will be well received & appreciated.—2 The lines of genetic connection offer, however, a most difficult problem; & I sometimes doubt whether Häckel has not done mischief by facing, in so bold & admirable a manner, the difficulty.3

I hope your little daughter may flourish in all ways, & shrug her shoulders & twiddle her fingers in the orthodox fashion, & thus confer a benefit on humanity, by showing the force & truth of the great principle of inheritance!4 Seriously I believe more & more that all who help in spreading a knowledge & belief of the laws of inheritance do real service to mankind.—

Pray thank Dr Macdonald for me & believe me | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from F. S. B. F. de Chaumont, 31 January 1873.
See letter from F. S. B. F. de Chaumont, 31 January 1873 and n. 1. John Denis Macdonald’s paper was read on 20 March 1873 and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (Macdonald 1873).
Macdonald had drawn up a physiological classification of protozoans on which he based his classification scheme for invertebrates (Macdonald 1873, pp. 219, 223). This classification reversed the evolutionary order of some organisms from that which had been described and figured by Ernst Haeckel in Haeckel 1866, 2: 410–17 and table I.
CD refers to Chaumont’s new daughter, Louise François de Chaumont. See letter from F. S. B. F. de Chaumont, 31 January 1873 and n. 2. In Expression, pp. 265–6, CD had described the habits of shoulder shrugging and finger rubbing in Chaumont’s older daughters, but without naming the family.


Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Haeckel, Ernst. 1866. Generelle Morphologie der Organismen. Allgemeine Grundzüge der organischen Formen-Wissenschaft, mechanisch begründet durch die von Charles Darwin reformirte Descendenz-Theorie. 2 vols. Berlin: Georg Reimer.

Macdonald, John Denis. 1873. On the distribution of the invertebrata in relation to the theory of evolution. [Read 20 March 1873.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 21 (1872–3): 218–23.


Thanks for J. D. MacDonald’s paper ["Distribution of invertebrata", Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 21 (1872–3): 218–23].

CD feels lines of genetic connection between animals offer a most difficult problem; Ernst Haeckel may have done mischief by facing the difficulty.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Stephen Bennet François de Chaumont
Sent from
Source of text
Wellcome Collection (RAMC/474/2); Trustees of the Army Medical Services Museum
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8757,” accessed on 21 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21