skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. J. Weir   5 April 1868

6 Haddo Villas | Blackheath S E

5 April 1868

My Dear Sir

Dont laugh   I am about to write a letter which if such an one had been written to me a few years ago I should have deemed the writer very weak minded.—

Many years before my marriage I was visiting at Mrs. Weir’s Fathers in Sussex   I cut a deep gash in my knee with a knife, Mrs. Weir (then Miss Jenner) knew of the accident, the wound healed but of course left a cicatrix, my son Percy born years afterwards has very plainly in precisely the same spot a similar mark and was born with it.—1

A friend of mine was struck by the boom of his yacht & had his cheek laid open & to this day the scar is visible, he had a Daughter born 8 years afterwards with a similar mark on the cheek.—2

A friend of my Mothers was thrown out of a chaise & had her cheek very much injured, when my Mother was enceinte with me, she very much regarded this mark, indeed could not take her eyes off it, now I have a similar mark on the cheek & I can plainly feel with my fingers that the muscle of the cheek on the side marked is divided!—3

I have often speculated on my Brother4 & myself having such an intense love of Nature.

My Father5 was very

CD annotations

2.3 my son … it.— 2.5] scored blue crayon
3.2 he had … cheek.— 3.3] scored blue crayon; ‘same side’ added blue crayon
4.1 A friend … very 4.2] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘over Prof. Rollestons case of man eye injured by crust of bread—rendered blind & all sons short-sighted on same side.—’6 pencil


Weir refers to Mary Ann Weir and Percy Jenner Weir. Weir’s father-in-law was Philip Jenner.
In the second edition of Variation 1: 469–70, CD mistakenly cited George Rolleston as the source of information about the two sons born with scars in identical positions to their fathers’ scars, on the knee and cheek, respectively. Rolleston later denied that he was the source of this information (letter from George Rolleston, 26 December 1876 (Calendar no. 10734)).
Weir’s mother was Elizabeth Jenner (ODNB s.v. Weir, Harrison William); her friend has not been identified.
Harrison William Weir.
John Weir.
George Rolleston may have informed CD about this case at the Royal College of Surgeons in March 1868 (see letter from George Rolleston, 30 September 1868).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


George Rolleston’s son was born with a scar on his knee exactly where GR cut himself with a knife years before his marriage. Gives several other examples of inherited mutilation.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Jenner Weir
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 74
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6093,” accessed on 6 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16