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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Rolleston   2 March [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

March 2d.

My dear Sir

I must have the pleasure of thanking you for your note.2 I quite agree with your remarks on Prof. A. Gray’s pamphlet:3 it is in my opinion the ablest thing which has appeared.— It is very kind of you to send me the pamphlet, which I will shortly read.—4 In a new Edit of Origin, which will immediately appear, I have enlarged a little on the relation of the most diverse types & on a few other subjects.5

Mr Paget of London told me of the singular fact of the discolouration of the skin in relation to the state of the supra-renal capsules. Also of the singular state of the teeth in inherited secondary Syphilis.—6 But your fact of “clubbed finger nails in Cyanosis” is quite new to me. If you would not think me quite unreasonable, I shd. be very much obliged for a little more information. What is cyanosis? Is it due to disease of heart? Which way are nails modified. Does the modification appear at birth? Is it an inherited disease?7

Pray excuse me troubling you & believe me Dear Sir with many thanks | Yours sincerely | ⁠⟨⁠Charles Darwin⁠⟩⁠8


The year is provided by the reference to A. Gray 1861a.
Rolleston’s letter has not been found.
A. Gray 1861a.
Rolleston had probably sent CD his essay ‘On the affinities of the brain of the orang utang’ (Rolleston 1861a), which appeared in the April issue of the Natural History Review.
The third edition of Origin was published in April 1861.
No letters from James Paget on these topics have been found, but CD thanked him for information on the ‘case of teeth affected by syphilitic parents’ in the letter to James Paget, [15 October – 19 November 1859] (Correspondence vol. 7). Paget was a surgeon and lecturer on physiology at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. He was a member of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society and frequently gave accounts of interesting medical cases at club meetings.
CD included both Paget’s case and that of Rolleston in his discussion of ‘correlated variability’ in Variation 2: 331–2. See also letter to George Rolleston, 7 March [1861]. Rolleston mentioned the correlation in Rolleston 1861b, pp. 487–8.
The signature has been cut away.


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

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Agrees with GR’s remarks on Asa Gray’s pamphlet.

New edition of Origin to appear immediately.

Fact of clubbed fingernails in cyanosis quite new to CD. Asks for information.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Rolleston
Sent from
Source of text
Wellcome Collection (MS.6119/5)
Physical description
AL 3pp (signature excised)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3076,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9