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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   6 February 1874

Trin Coll

Feb. 6 74

My dear Father,

I have been intending to write for some days but have had such an enormous lot of letters to write that I kept putting off. I have sent you off my copies of Dr. Mitchell’s pamphlet & of another by him which you may like to see.1 You can let me have them back when you have done with them, as I shall not want them until I’m working up my results.—2 I have received some statistics from Reg. Gen.3 & find that cousin marriages are at least 3 times as freqt. in our rank as in the lower! This fully explains the Hanwell results when the percentage was very small.—4 I shall send you a whole flight of letters in a few days to send out to Dr. C Brown’s introducees.5 I must try to get hold of some cancer, phthisical &.c Hospitals too. I think I shall get interestg. results now.—

I came down last Tuesd. to go to Gen. Strachey’s—6 I was unluckily very bad on Monday & Tuesday, but cheered up a good deal in the evening & so by eating v. little dinner got thro’ wonderfully & enjoyed myself. F. Galton7 was there   Lady Colvill (wife of Indian judge & Sister of Mrs. Strachey—friend of Lubbocks—lively & pleasant but I do’nt think very wise) Mr. & Mrs. Allman—a Mrs. Johnson & a Col. Johnson(?) brother & sister—not husbd & wife & so it was a very pleasant party.8 After dinner I had some map talk with G. & Str; & we’ve settled to have the pentagon & hexagon plan constructed, tho’ I shd have liked one of the other plans rather better in some ways9

F.G. did’nt seem surprized at Huxley’s discovery of Wms.’ imposture & said he knew he was a cheat, but seemed inclined to think that there is an unexplained residuum10

I stayed the night there & came up in the morng. with Gen. S. to town, where I lunched with Uncle R.11 whom I fd. very lively; & came down here again by an afternoon train.

I have on the whole been baddish since I’ve been back tho’ with a good day or two & better for the last 2 days & decidedly better nights than for 3 weeks back. The temp. in my bedroom is 38o or 39o12 at night, but I pile on the clothes & wrap an old shawl round my head & so keep tol. warm—but I wish it wd. get warm   We’ve been having dense fogs but today is lovely. Maxw.13 has begun his lectures, but I don’t think there will be any laboratory work yet.

In Italy cousin marrs. are 35 p. cent! but then uncles marry nieces there wh. partly replaces it no doubt14

Yrs affectly | G H Darwin


There is an offprint of Arthur Mitchell’s article from Memoirs read before the Anthropological Society of London, ‘Blood-relationship in marriage considered in its influence upon the offspring’ (A. Mitchell 1865), in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. George summarised the version of this article published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal in G. H. Darwin 1875a, pp. 172–5. The other pamphlet has not been identified.
George published an article on cousin marriage in the Journal of the Statistical Society of London (G. H. Darwin 1875a).
The registrar-general was George Graham.
George discovered that between 3 and 4 per cent of asylum inmates were the children of first-cousin marriages; however, at Hanwell asylum in London less than 1 per cent were, which he thought accorded with the low level of cousin marriage in London generally (about 112 per cent; see G. H. Darwin 1875a, pp. 166–8).
George asked various asylum directors, including James Crichton-Browne of the West Riding Asylum in Wakefield, Yorkshire, for information on the number of inmates who were children of first-cousin marriage (G. H. Darwin 1875a, pp. 165–9).
Richard Strachey.
Francis Galton.
George refers to Elinor Colvile (the wife of James William Colvile, former chief justice of Bengal, and sister of Jane Maria Strachey), John and Ellen Frances Lubbock, and George James and Hannah Louisa Allman. Colonel and Mrs Johnson have not been identified.
Galton and Richard Strachey were members of a committee appointed by the Royal Geographical Society to develop a better representation of the world in a two-dimensional map or foldable globe. George had presented a paper ‘On a portable globe, and on some maps of the world’ together with some models at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1873, but no abstract was printed; he summarised this and his later research in G. H. Darwin 1875c (see especially pp. 433, 434). See also Correspondence vol. 21, letter from Richard Strachey, 25 August 1873, and letter from G. H. Darwin to Richard Strachey, [29 August 1873].
Thomas Henry Huxley had observed a séance and had concluded that the medium, Charles E. Williams, was a fraud (letter from T. H. Huxley, 27 January 1874).
Erasmus Alvey Darwin.
3–4o centigrade.
James Clerk Maxwell.
See G. H. Darwin 1875a, p. 164.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Mitchell, Arthur. 1865. Blood-relationship in marriage considered in its influence upon the offspring. Memoirs read before the Anthropological Society of London 2 (1864–5): 402–56. [Also published in Edinburgh Medical Journal 10 (1865–6): 781–94, 894–913, 1074–85, under the title ‘On the influence which consanguinity in the parentage exercises upon the offspring’.]


Finds statistical evidence that cousin marriages are at least three times as frequent in "our rank" as in the lower.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Trinity College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 33
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9268,” accessed on 30 November 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22