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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   18 April 1874

Trin: Coll:

Sat. Ap. 18.’74

Dear Father,

I enclose a paper of questions; will you write your answers across them— I don’t think you will want the slips for this—as reference to the book will suffice—even if that is necessary.—1

I continue very much the same— tho’ I got thro’ the journey well eno’, I had a turn of sickness afterwds.—2 I’ve had none since except a little yesterday. I’ve played tennis for 12 an hour each morning, but I’m so feeble & play so badly that its only just better than a constitutional. The place is v. desolate, but men return today. We were only 2 in hall yesty.—Aldis Wright3 & I. That Waring parchment is very curious & I’m delighted at having got it—4 I had a long talk with Wright (who’s a great antiquarian) about it last night in my rooms after hall & he thinks it will be worth printing in Notes & Queries or somewhere else.5 There are a great many v. curious words. It is a remarkable thing that none of the bedrooms have either washing stands or mirrors in them & there are no pictures at all altho’ the houses were clearly well furnished—every article is mentioned down to the minutest. Frank comes up today & I’m going to have the Ruck family to lunch tomorr.— I daresay Mrs. Ruck will bring the fiend this time6

I’ve answered Mr Forster of Exeter, but told him to take no further trouble, as I almost think the whole cousin business will collapse—for I’m less satisfied than I was with my own statistics—7

However I suppose must buckle to & write out what I can on the subject soon—but its awfully disheartening.

I dont think I shall be up to laboratory work yet.

I think I shall have don the book except index in 3 days!!

Yours affly | George Darwin


Mill’s Logic vol II p 18 footnote

“Mr Darwin’s remarkable speculation on the Origin of Species is another unimpeachable example of a legitimate hypothesis. What he terms “natural selection” is not only a vera causa, but one proved to be capable of producing effects of the same kind with those which the hypothesis ascribes to it: the question of possibility is entirely one of degree. It is unreasonable to accuse Mr. Darwin (as has been done) of violating the rules of Induction. The rules of Induction are concerned with the conditions of Proof. Mr Darwin has never pretended that his doctrine was proved. He was not bound by the rules of Induction, but by those of Hypothesis. And these last have seldom been more completely fulfilled. He has opened a path of inquiry full of promise, the results of which none can foresee. And is it not a wonderful feat of scientific knowledge & ingenuity to have tendered so bold a suggestion, which the first impulse of everyone was to reject at once, admissable & discussable, even as a conjecture”8

(Accurate copy GHD)

CD annotations

Verso of last page: ‘Cousins’ pencil


The list of questions has not been found. George had helped to prepare Descent 2d ed. and was checking the proofs of the book.
George had returned to Cambridge on 15 April 1874 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
William Aldis Wright was senior bursar of Trinity College, Cambridge (ODNB).
The parchment has not been identified. The name ‘Waring’ in the Darwin family originated from Robert Waring, CD’s great-great-great-grandfather (Freeman 1978).
Notes and Queries is a literary journal founded in 1849 and published by Oxford University Press.
Francis Darwin was engaged to Amy Ruck. The other members of the Ruck family were Lawrence and Mary Anne Ruck and their children, Arthur Ashley, Laurence Ithel, Oliver Edwal, and Richard Matthews, and a married sister, Mary Elizabeth Atkin. The ‘fiend’ was Laurence Ithel Ruck (see letter from G. H. Darwin, 20 April 1874).
For George’s findings on cousin marriage, see the letter from G. H. Darwin, 6 February 1874. George probably refers to William Robson Scott. He acknowledged ‘Dr Scott of Exeter’ for information on children born deaf and dumb from first-cousin marriages, and for offering to put him in communication with superintendents of other institutions for the deaf and dumb in his article on cousin marriage; he also received information from Samuel Strong Forster of Worcester College for the Blind (G. H. Darwin 1875a, pp. 169–170).
The quotation is from the fifth edition of John Stuart Mill’s System of logic (Mill 1862, 2: 18 n.). For a previous discussion of the passage, see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from E. A. Darwin, 9 November 1863.


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

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Sends queries [on proofs of Descent, 2d ed.]. Will be finished, except for the index, in two days.

Is now less satisfied than formerly with his statistics on cousin marriage.

[Enclosure is a copy by GHD of J. S. Mill’s statement about Origin (Logic 2: 18 n.).]

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Trinity College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 34
Physical description
ALS 3pp, encl 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9417,” accessed on 28 May 2023,

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