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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Cupples   1 March 1875

The Cottage, | Guard Bridge | Fifeshire N.B.

March 1/75

Dear Mr Darwin,

Pray accept of my warm thanks for your very very kind remembrance of me, and for the copy of the 2d. edition of “The Descent of Man”.1 I see it contains additions of great interest, and have read the preface and begun to go over the text.

I cannot help being struck by the notion that some “od force” of a psychical kind—or current of “animal magnetism”2—from my side, has tended to bring me this welcome renewal of your favour, otherwise so disproportionate to its very trifling deserts. It seems to me a curious coincidence that I had been three or four times on the point of writing to you on some slight pretext—each time deterred by the thought of troubling you. The night before I got your note, I had brought my courage to the decision of doing so that very morning, with the extract from a newspaper which I now send in the idea that it may amuse you, if you have not already chanced to see it. It appears to me immensely good. I venture to ask that you would return it at your leisure.3 It has to my mind a value beyond the mere fun of the occasion.

I had seen it stated that you were about to publish some other new work—(which was one of the occasions above referred to, for wishing to ask how your health stood under so wonderful a continuance of labour.) Another was the reported movement of the St Andrew’s University, near here, to endeavour to have their Rectorship made known in the world by connection with your name4—(which, however, was felt to be too much to aspire to, considering the relative positions—though it is certainly extraordinary to what heights of self-assurance a Scotch constituency will rise, since Edinburgh first attempted to make Macaulay its delegate to Parliament, as I well remember.).5 If it had seemed anything more than a Utopian imagination on the part of the students and Professors, I was desirous to have written to you a word or two in favour of the country hereabouts—hyperborean though it is—in the hope that you might at least think of it for an actual visit.

As to the Greyhound business6—I waited and waited in vain for the promised returns of my Irish correspondent, Mr [Magahan], breeder of the famous “Master Magrath”—notwithstanding a reminder from me, after his cordial offers (which might have been called really “gushing”.7 An English coursing-man of noted position (whose name I forget) failed me in a similar way, though professedly willing. So did a third authority, on whom I had counted. In fact, this union of desire with incapacity, and the ultimate refuge taken in utter silence—are singularly characteristic of sporting men. One intelligent gamekeeper like Rayner—whose well-meant but inadequate attempts were given to the object8—is worth a dozen of them—for no false shame has to be dealt with in cases like his. For my own part, I must say I was ashamed to write further to you about it—at all events had nothing to justify writing again.

Would it not be desirable to take every opportunity, in published works on Natural History, of pressing upon sporting men, on their gamekeepers also, and their other servants—and on stock-breeders and others in that line—that they should not only observe carefully, but keep accurate records; being assured of the fact that these latter may at any time become important. This habit has scarcely begun yet. Your works have laid the foundation for its exercise.

In this connection I may say that if there is any point on which statistics are specially required, I know of several persons in various parts of the world who would gladly look out for them. In particular, I have had visits lately from two young Science Professors going out to the new Otago University—whose services could be commanded.9

In haste for post | yours ever truly— | George Cupples

to Chas. Darwin, Esqre.

P.S. Kindest regards from my wife to Mrs Darwin and yourself.10


See letter to George Cupples, 25 February 1875. CD had arranged to have a copy of Descent 2d ed. sent to Cupples.
‘Od’ was the name given by Karl von Reichenbach to the vital or life-force pervading all nature and accounting for various physical and psychological phenomena (OED). The term ‘animal magnetism’ was used to describe an invisible force that could have physical effects, such as the transference of thoughts from one person to another. For more on the concept, see Winter 1998.
The newspaper extract has not been identified.
A report in the Pall Mall Gazette, 22 September 1874, p. 7, stated that students of the University of St Andrews had started a movement to elect CD as rector. CD had earlier been proposed as a candidate for rector of the University of Aberdeen, but declined to stand because of ill health (see Correspondence vol. 20, letter to J. S. Craig, 7 November 1872).
Thomas Babington Macaulay was invited to stand as parliamentary candidate for Edinburgh and was elected in June 1839 (ODNB).
In his letter of 25 February 1875, CD remarked that the case about greyhounds almost broke down. Cupples had provided CD with information on the proportion of sexes preserved in litters of greyhounds (see letter to George Cupples, 25 February 1875 and n. 3).
James Galwey was the breeder of the famous coursing greyhound Master McGrath (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from George Cupples, 12 March 1874 and n. 2). Mr Magahan has not been identified.
With his letter of 21 February 1874 (Correspondence vol. 22), Cupples had enclosed a letter from Frederick Rayner on greyhound breeding.
Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand, was founded in 1869 and opened in July 1871. The professors have not been identified, but many early faculty members were recruited from Scotland. (See Morrell 1969.)
Cupples’s wife was Anne Jane Cupples.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 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.

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.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Winter, Alison. 1998. Mesmerized: powers of mind in Victorian Britain. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.


Thanks for presentation copy of Descent, 2d ed.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Cupples
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Guard Bridge
Source of text
DAR 161: 303
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9877,” accessed on 18 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23