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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin to Henry Rayner   28 January 1874

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Jan 28. 74

Dear Sir,

I write to thank you most cordially for the readiness you have shown in helping me in my inquiry, & in these thanks my father desires me to join his name.—1

Do I understand you right in supposing that all cases in which there was any reasonable doubt as to the correctness of the answers given to the question about consanguineity of parents, are excluded from the 314 cases you give me?2

From the returns sent me by Dr. Crichton Brown of Wakefield I should expect amongst the lower classes that there wd be a considerable number of persons ignorant of their parentage.3 If however, as I understand you, all such doubtful cases are excluded the percentage is remarkably low. I should much like to investigate the case of Whitstaple, but I do not know how I cd do so, & besides it wd. be somewhat a different class of enquiry from that which I have undertaken.4 Your hint however on phthisis & scrofula is valuable & I shall try to act on it5

Believe me | Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | G H Darwin


Rayner probably wrote in response to the letter to superintendent of a lunatic asylum, 20 January 1874, or a similar one; this letter was probably sent to several asylum directors (see letter to James Crichton-Browne, 5 January 1874). His letter has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
In ‘Marriages between first cousins in England and their effects’ (G. H. Darwin 1875a, p. 166), the table of results lists a total of 255 patients from the Middlesex county lunatic asylum at Hanwell (where Rayner was a medical superintendent) who responded to the question about whether their parents were first cousins.
Crichton-Browne’s response has not been found but George discussed his observations in G. H. Darwin 1875a.
In G. H. Darwin 1875a, p. 169, George noted, ‘Dr Rayner, of Hanwell, says that amongst the fishermen of Whitstable there is much intermarriage.’
Rayner’s hint regarding phthisis and scrofula is not known, but see G. H. Darwin 1875a, p. 169, for Rayner’s additional comments on intermarriage among the fishermen of Whitstable.


Gives his and CD’s thanks for information on consanguinity among parents of asylum inmates.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Henry Rayner
Source of text
Bernard Quaritch (dealers) 2003

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9257F,” accessed on 16 April 2021,

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