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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Lawson Tait   15 June [1877]1

Bassett, Southampton.

June 15th

My dear Sir

Your note & kind present of your work on the Diseases of Women has been forwarded to me here where I am staying for a little change & rest.— I have read the interesting passages to which you refer me, & will hereafter look at some other portions of your book.—2 You never fail to honour me much more than I deserve.

My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin

P.S | I was much interested by your letter on a cat rearing chickens, which is the converse case of a hen rearing young ferrets, as described by Romanes some time ago in Nature.—3

What a wonderful instinct is the maternal one!


The year is established by the reference to L. Tait 1877 (see n. 2, below).
See letter from Lawson Tait, 13 June [1877] and n. 2. In his recent book (L. Tait 1877), Tait had acknowledged the importance of CD’s work on the inheritance of sexual instincts, on hermaphroditism, and on pangenesis. CD stayed at William Erasmus Darwin’s house in Bassett, Southampton, from 13 June to 4 July (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
The letter from Tait has not been found. In a letter to Nature, 28 October 1875, pp. 553–4, George John Romanes had described the maternal instincts of a hen that kept three young ferrets in her nest (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter to G. J. Romanes, [4 November 1875] and n. 6.


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

Tait, Lawson. 1877. Diseases of women. London: Williams and Norgate.


Thanks RLT for his work, Diseases of women.

CD is also interested by RLT’s letter reporting a cat rearing chickens. "What a wonderful instinct is the maternal one."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Lawson (Lawson) Tait
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 221.5: 39
Physical description
3pp (Photocopy) & Adraft 1p (on 10909a)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11001,” accessed on 26 September 2021,