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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Rolleston   26 December 1876


Tuesday— | Dec. 26. 1876

My dear Sir

I forwarded Balfour’s Certificate to Prof. Ray Lankester as he was with Sir B. C. Brodie, Hawthornden, Torquay.1 I signed it myself of course & I hope it has reached you again by this time.

I send you in return Moseley’s Certificate and as I learn from him that you can now sign from personal knowledge I will ask you to put your name as I am sure he would (as I should) like it to stand first in the list of such signatories— Sharpey & Busk I should wish to have as also Carpenter & Wyville Thomson but I will not trouble you for this.2

I have been intending to ask you for some time back whether you had seen a paper by one of the Smithsonian Institution-Staff, Emil Bessels on the Eskimos die Inuit des Smith-Sundes in the Archiv für Anthropologie for 1875 Bd. viii. 2. p 111 note & p. 112—3 There are two points given, ll cc which shew as the author says and more extensively than he means I think eine wirklichen Thierliche Handlung.4 Though in no other way [nice], these facts when coupled with such a fact (and I have it from our Deputy for Max Müller the Revd. G. H. Sayce)5 as that of the Eskimo language being one of the oldest forms of language, & with such another set of facts as the former condition of things in the Miocene period having been what the Germans call Paradisaical & what after such a day as this I should call so too, have I think a considerable significance. I will if you have not the paper at hand, copy the passages & send them to you—

I always feel honoured by any reference you make to me but I cannot think the facts at the bottom of the 469th. page of the first Volume of your second Edition of “the Variation of Animals under Domestication” are mine— I believe I may have been the first person to draw your attention to Mr Sedgwick’s papers & the little finger’s deformities I have more than once seen hereditarily transmitted though not when artificially produced. These are mentioned on the same page but I have no recollection of the two cases spoken of at the bottom of the page.6

I am | Yours very Truly | George Rolleston


CD proposed Francis Maitland Balfour for fellowship of the Royal Society of London; see letter to F. M. Balfour, 13 December 1876. In his letter of [14] December [1876], Balfour had suggested Edwin Ray Lankester and Rolleston as supporters for his nomination. The certificate, dated 3 January 1877, was also signed by CD, William Sharpey, George Murray Humphry, Alfred Newton, Allen Thomson, George James Allman, William Benjamin Carpenter, Henry Nottidge Moseley, William Kitchen Parker, Philip Lutley Sclater, and John Lubbock. He was elected on 6 June 1878 (Record of the Royal Society of London). Benjamin Collins Brodie Jr spent his final years in Torquay (ODNB).
Henry Nottidge Moseley’s nomination certificate for fellowship of the Royal Society was signed by (in order of signing): CD, Rolleston, George Busk, Sharpey, Carpenter, Lankester, Robert Bellamy Clifton, William Esson, and Thomas Lauder Brunton. He was elected on 7 June 1877 (Record of the Royal Society of London). A separate certificate was sent to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to obtain the signature of George Henry Kendrick Thwaites, and his name ‘was included among the signatures of candidates as printed’ (Royal Society Archives EC/1877/15). Charles Wyville Thomson did not sign.
Bessels’s article ‘Einige Worte über die Inuit (Eskimo) des Smith-Sundes: nebst Bemerkungen über Inuit-Schädel’ (A few words about the Inuit (Eskimo) of Smith Sound: together with remarks about Inuit skulls; Bessels 1875) appeared in Archiv für Anthropologie.
Eine wirklichen Thierliche Handlung: a truly animal act (German). ll cc: locis citatis (in the places cited; Latin).
Friedrich Max Müller was professor and Archibald Henry Sayce deputy professor of comparative philology at the University of Oxford (ODNB).
In his discussion of injuries to parents inherited by their children in Variation 2d ed. 1: 469–70, CD had written: ‘Professor Rolleston has given me two such cases which have fallen under his own observation,—namely of two men, one of whom had his knee and the other his cheek severely cut, and both had children born with exactly the same spot marked or scarred.’ Rolleston had drawn CD’s attention to William Sedgwick’s two-part article on sexual limitation in hereditary disease (Sedgwick 1861) in his letter of 1 September 1861 (Correspondence vol. 9). CD cited the article in Variation 2d ed. 1: 469, n. 59.


Bessels, Emil. 1875. Einige Worte über die Inuit (Eskimo) des Smith-Sundes: nebst Bemerkungen über Inuit-Schädel. Archiv für Anthropologie: Zeitschrift für Naturgeschichte und Urgeschichte des Menschen. 8: 107–22.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Record of the Royal Society of London: The record of the Royal Society of London for the promotion of natural knowledge. 4th edition. London: Royal Society. 1940.

Sedgwick, William. 1861. On sexual limitation in hereditary disease. British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review n.s. 27: 477–89; 28: 198–214.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.


Sending certificates for Balfour and Moseley for CD to sign.

Calls attention to a paper by Emil Bessels on Eskimos, which he extracts [see 10737].

CD has cited GR for material that is not his in Variation, 2d ed., 1: 469, on transmission of mutilation.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Rolleston
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176: 212
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10734,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24