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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   10 June 1874

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

June 10th 74

My dear George

Your paper strikes me as very clearly & modestly written. An impression of distrust & doubt is necessarily raised by the difficulties which you reveal at every point. I had no idea what a complex subject it is. As far as my judgment goes, I think your paper is well worth publishing. To take the lowest ground, it is well to show how difficult a problem it is.— I suppose you intend to add a general summary or conclusion giving the limit of error within which the percentage of cousiny marriages can be arrived at with fair confidence. The general reader would much desire this, & he would trust you largely from the honesty shown throughout your paper. To men not accustomed to mathematic your abbreviations are perplexing in the Tables. I have marked some of them with pencil; for I did not at first take a glimmering of meaning. A Table ought, I think, to be intelligible without reading the context.— Certainly I hope that you will publish your paper, & have it read before the Statistical Socy.1

We were very glad to get your letter this morning with a somewhat better account of yourself & about those accursed exam: papers.2

We are making a hole in the Proof-sheets, & shall soon come to Part II.— I have not received for some days any new sheet.— I have detected very few errata—one or two, as age for ago & full-stop omitted.—3

I cannot resist correcting rather more than you do,—but not much, so do not see Revises.

I have sent your interesting notes on direction to Spalding.—4

I return old Proofs & your Paper.

Yours affect | C. Darwin


George had been analysing data on the marriage of first cousins and its effects on the health of their children since 1873; he read a paper on the subject to the Statistical Society of London on 16 March 1875 (G. H. Darwin 1875a; see also G. H. Darwin 1875b, and letter from G. H. Darwin, 20 April 1874 and n. 2). The draft seen by CD has not been found.
The letter has not been found; George had complained of ill health in his letter of 30 May 1874. George was an examiner in mathematics and classics for Trinity College, Cambridge; the examinations took place between 8 and 13 June 1874 (Trinity College Archive, Head Lecturer’s Book 1801–1900).
George was checking proof-sheets for the second edition of Descent, which was published as a single volume whereas the first edition was in two parts (see letter from G. H. Darwin, 30 May 1874 and n. 1).
Douglas Alexander Spalding had recently visited CD and discussed his work on inherited instinct; George’s notes have not been found (see letters to G. H. Darwin, 27 May [1874] and [29 May 1874]).


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Comments on GHD’s paper ["Marriages between first cousins in England and their effects", Fortn. Rev. n.s. 18 (1875): 22–41]. Hopes it will be published and read at the Statistical Society.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 23
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9487,” accessed on 19 May 2022,

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