DARWIN (CHARLES) Letter signed and subscribed ("I beg leave to remain Dear Sir yours faithfully Charles Darwin"), the text in the hand of his son George, Down, 20 and 28 January 1874

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 84
DARWIN (CHARLES)
Letter signed and subscribed ("I beg leave to remain Dear Sir yours faithfully Charles Darwin"), the text in the hand of his son George, Down, 20 and 28 January 1874, 'THE PROPORTION OF THE OFF-SPRING OF 1ST COUSIN MARRIAGES AMONGST THE INSANE, IDIOTIC, DEAF & DUMB &C ' – Darwin ponders the potential injurious effects of marriage between first cousins

Sold for £ 6,250 (US$ 7,789) inc. premium
DARWIN (CHARLES)
Letter signed and subscribed ("I beg leave to remain Dear Sir yours faithfully Charles Darwin"), the text in the hand of his son George, to "Dear Sir" [Dr Henry Rayner, Medical Superintendent of the Hanwell Asylum], asking him to provide statistical information on those patients under his care who are offspring of marriages between first cousins, for a paper being prepared by his son George ("...He now wishes to utilize his results by the discovery of the proportion of the offspring of 1st cousin marriages amongst the insane, idiotic, deaf & dumb &.c. I have for 30 years considered an answer to this inquiry of great importance. We have here I think, the rare case of an inquiry, the answer to wh. will be of value whatever it may be; for we shall either find that such marriages are injurious, or that we may persevere in them with impunity..."); together with an autograph letter signed by George ("G H Darwin"), to the same, thanking him for his help ("...& in these thanks my father desires me to join his name..."), and discussing further returns from Wakefield and Whitstable ("...I should expect among the lower classes that there wd be a considerable number of persons ignorant of their parentage..."), each letter 3 pages, engraved heading, guards, minor dust or thumb-staining on blank versos, 8vo, Down, 20 and 28 January 1874

Footnotes

  • 'THE PROPORTION OF THE OFF-SPRING OF 1ST COUSIN MARRIAGES AMONGST THE INSANE, IDIOTIC, DEAF & DUMB &C ' – Darwin ponders the potential injurious effects of marriage between first cousins and (by unstated implication) the risks posed by his own marriage to his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood; the question being the subject of his son George's paper 'Marriages between First Cousins in England and their Effects', Journal of the Statistical Society, June 1875, 38:2, pp.165-9 (in which reference is made to the information supplied by Rayner).

    A further statistical analysis, with reference to George's paper, has recently been undertaken by Tim M. Berra, Gonzalo Alvarez and Francisco C. Ceballos, in 'Was the Darwin/Wedgwood Dynasty Adversely Affected by Consanguinity?', BioScience, Volume 60, Issue 5, 1 May 2010, pp.376-383 (https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2010.60.5.7), in which not just Darwin's marriage but the inter-marriage prevailing within his family is assessed: 'Charles Darwin, who was married to his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood, was one of the first experimentalists to demonstrate the adverse effects of inbreeding and to question the consequences of consanguineous mating. He documented the phenomenon of inbreeding depression for numerous plant species, and this caused him to worry about the health of his own children, who were often ill... Our answer to the question posed by the title of this article is yes. Charles Darwin's fears of consanguinity appear to have been justified given the context of the Darwin/Wedgwood marriages'. (They also point out, however, that three of Darwin's sons were knighted, and that the Darwins have been fellows of the Royal Society in father-to-son sequence longer than any other family, from Erasmus Darwin, elected 1761, to Sir Charles Dalton Darwin, elected 1922; a span of 201 years over five generations and seven fellows.) The first of our letters is recorded by the Darwin Correspondence Project.
Contacts
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £2,500 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £2,500 up to and including £300,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £300,000 up to and including £3,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £3,000,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalog.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.