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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Frank Chance   10 August [1873]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. [Basset, Southampton.]

Aug. 10th

Dear Sir

I thank you for your very interesting letter,2 & I should have greatly regretted not to have received it. By an odd chance my eldest son (at whose house I am now staying, & which fact will account for the delay in acknowledging your letter) about a year ago told me of a pony coloured exactly as you describe & which he was almost certain changed colour in the same manner during winter.3 He has since observed the pony carefully & finds that it is so.

With these two cases, I think I may now fully rely on the fact, so that it would be superfluous to write to any paper for the chance of receiving an answer.—

With respect to the hairs on the human body I am much surprised at what you say— I had always fancied that goose-skin & the erection of the scattered hairs were part of the same phenomenon, & so it is generally stated in books. It is very strange that the cold & hot water shd. have induced goose-skin in your case & not the erection of the hair.

I imagine that the muscles to the hairs on the body of man must be tending to a rudimentary condition. That they will act in some cases I must believe from the statement of so careful an observer as Lister who states that tickling the surface will cause the erection of the hairs on the closely adjoining surface.4

I daresay there is much truth in what you say about the influence of colour & temperature, which I quite over⁠⟨⁠l⁠⟩⁠ooked; & your account of the effects of heat on the different parts of the skin of your hands is very remarkable.5

With very cordial thanks for your valuable letter, pray believe me Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Frank Chance, 31 July – 7 August 1873.
CD visited William Erasmus Darwin in Basset, Southampton, from 9 to 21 August 1873 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). See Correspondence vol. 19, letter from W. E. Darwin, 5 June 1871.
CD cited Joseph Lister on this point in Expression, p. 101 and n. 19.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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


Thanks [FC] for his letter concerning a pony changing colour during the winter,

and remarks on the erection of human body hair, goose-skin, and the influence of colour and temperature on skin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Frank Chance
Sent from
[Bassett] Down letterhead
Source of text
DAR 185: 139
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9003F,” accessed on 30 March 2023,

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