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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charlotte Papé   16 July 1875

Lark Hill House | Edgeley | Stockport

July 16th. 75

Dear Mr. Darwin,

I must ask your pardon and your indulgence for the great liberty I am going to take just now in begging of you the favour to look at the enclosed paper.1 The general interest which I always took in questions relating to the laws that regulate the developement of life has been raised to a very strong wish to know as much about it as I can, by your own works, which I have only now been able to really read; and Mr. Francis Galton’s books have shown me, in what, on the whole, simple way facts bearing on some questions of Heredity may be collected.2 I have been thinking that perhaps even I might be able, by accurately tabulating and comparing such cases as I know, to do something towards ascertaining the truth or error of some of Mr. Galton’s conclusions, at least as far as my own conviction is concerned. The point which naturally has the greatest interest for me, about which I am most anxious to find out something certain, is, how far heredity is limited by sex in the human race, especially whether mental qualities are at all limited by it. I am well aware that your own, I think, provisional view is, that even mental qualities are thus limited;3 I myself know so comparatively many striking instances to the contrary, among my friends and my own family, that it seems highly improbable to me. At any rate, every woman ought to try to ascertain as much of the truth in respect to it as she can; for apart from the interest of the question in itself, it is most important for the future of women.

Now I have noted down different rubrics, as on the paper enclosed, to be filled out as accurately as possible; and the great, very great, favour I am begging of you, dear Mr. Darwin, is just to throw a look at it and tell me, whether, if I do so, the conclusions appearing from such tables would be trustworthy as far as they go; also what number of families would be the minimum for a reliable average, and any other remark necessary, and so invaluable from you, and for me.

For, of course, like all women, I have had no scientific training, and know nothing except from random reading; neither could I attain any now. And it is just this very helplessness as to getting information, or even any word of advice and criticism that I could trust more than my own that must form my excuse for the unwarrantable liberty I am taking, and plead with your kindness for the granting of the favour I beg. I literally know of no one to ask, except the illustrious authority I am addressing; and so doing I wonder at my own boldness. If you think such tables no good, at least if not put together by more skilful hands, of course, I shall not attempt to fill them out.

I am, dear Mr. Darwin, | with true admiration and reverence | Yours | Charlotte Papé


The enclosure has not been found.
Francis Galton had published two books on inherited characteristics in families, Galton 1869 and Galton 1874.
For CD’s views on the comparative mental powers of men and women, see Descent 2: 326–9; he cited Galton’s Hereditary genius (Galton 1869) on the superiority of men’s achievements in the arts and sciences. On Papé’s advocacy of women’s rights, see Meder et al. eds. 2010, pp. 668–74.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Galton, Francis. 1869. Hereditary genius: an inquiry into its laws and consequences. London: Macmillan.

Galton, Francis. 1874. English men of science: their nature and nurture. London: Macmillan and Co.


Wants to study hereditary mental characters to see whether they are limited by sex – an idea CD holds provisionally and which she doubts. She sends a questionnaire form that she asks CD to criticise. Has read Francis Galton [Hereditary genius (1869)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charlotte Papé
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Edgeley, Stockport
Source of text
DAR 174: 27
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10072,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

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