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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Frank Chance   [before 25 April 1871]1

Burleigh House, Sydenham Hill | London, S.E.


In your “Descent of man” vol. ii, p. 319, you say: “Even in the colour of the beard there is a curious parallelism between man & the Quadrumana, for when in man the beard differs in colour from the hair of the head, as is often the case, it is, I believe, invariably of a lighter tint, being often reddish”. You go on to say that you yourself have noticed this in England & that Dr. Hooker & Mr. J. Scott have noticed the same thing in Russia & India.2 Now, there can be no doubt that the rule you lay down is almost invariably true but there certainly are exceptions & I myself form one. My hair is brown, neither dark nor yet very light, whilst my beard & whiskers are (or were for they are changing colour) very much darker & would usually be called black, although the blackness is not that which one sees in Italy, Spain or in tropical countries. My moustache is or was more of the colour of my hair & has a slightly reddish tinge without being red. In my beard & whiskers there is no reddish tinge. My eyebrows & eyelashes are between my hair & my beard & whiskers, being darker than the one & rather lighter than the other. The hair on my body is of the colour of my beard with the exception of that under the armpits which is rather lighter than my hair & has a somewhat reddish tinge & that on the pubes which is darker than my hair but has a distinctly brown tinge.

My eyes are bluish grey.

I enclose a specimen from my hair & another from my beard & whiskers.3

It is not difficult in my case, I think, to see how it is that my beard & whiskers are darker than my hair. My father4 had dark hair, but his eyes were, bluish grey a good deal like mine. My mother5 had what are called hazel eyes & very dark or what is usually called black hair & her family generally were dark. In features & character I am universally allowed to be more like my mother & her family than my father & his family, yet I have my father’s eyes as far as colour is concerned & I probably derived my hair from him, as, though his hair was darker than mine, yet there is a good deal of hair of my colour among my relations on my father’s side. My father had but scanty whiskers & beard & this is the case with my relations on his side. I myself am abundantly provided with beard & whiskers & this is the case with my relations on my mother’s side, & their beards & whiskers are dark. My hair therefore probably came from my father’s side, & my beard & whiskers from my mother’s side   I had in fact beard & whiskers of the same colour as those of my younger brother, though his hair is as dark as his beard & his eyes are dark. I was the only child of six who lived to grow up who had light hair & eyes.

From the remarks of friends & hairdressers & from my own observation, I became aware, as soon as I grew up, that my beard & whiskers were darker than could have been expected & I consequently have been upon the look out for similar cases & my belief is that, though they are undoubtedly very rare, I have seen more than one such & indeed it is not likely that I should be the only exception in the whole world. In future, if I do see such a case, I will make a note of it.

I hope you will pardon me for the liberty which I take in writing to you, but as you yourself constantly record exceptions to your own rules, it is evident that you are not one of those who suppress or ignore facts which tell against you. In this particular case, however, I do not see that your argument would be invalidated by the occurrence of a few exceptions, & who knows but that such exceptions would be found amongst the monkeys themselves if more of them came under examination.

I am Sir, | Yours obedly | F. Chance.

C. Darwin Esqre.

CD annotations

4.11 My hair … eyes. 4.15] scored blue crayon
5.1 From … examination. 6.6] scored ink; ‘Give— a gentleman wrote to me that he was an exception, & from the facts communicated, I believe his explanation true, that he inherited the dark almost black beard from the maternal side—colour of eyes & Hair from paternal side. Was aware of his own peculiarity, & attend to point in others from youth, & he speaks [doubtfully]6 added ink
Top of letter: ‘S Selection Manpencil; ‘Beard darker | Sexual Selection’ blue crayon


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 25 April [1871].
The enclosure has not been found.
This note is probably a draft for an addition to Descent 2d ed.; the case appears in ibid., p. 558.


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.


His beard is darker than his hair, an exception to CD’s rule in Descent [2: 319]. Encloses sample of his hair, beard, and whiskers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Frank Chance
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Sydenham Hill
Source of text
DAR 89: 198–9
Physical description
ALS 2pp †† encl

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7522,” accessed on 24 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19