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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Lawford Acland   17 August 1870

5 West Terrace | Folkstone

Aug 17th/70

Dear Sir,

In studying your work on Variation, especially Vol II pp 252–3 and the chapter on Pangenesis I have been frequently reminded of a conversation I had some years back with Dr. Lee, the late well known minister of the Grey Friars Church in Edinburgh—1 It introduces a thought wh. may appear to you to bear upon your hypothesis.

We had got somehow upon the strong personal resemblance which not unfrequently developes itself between husband and wife after they have been many years married. We had discussed various possible reasons for it, as similarity of tastes, of pursuits, of circumstances &c, and at last Dr Lee said that he believed there was also a physiological reason for it viz: that in his own words: the woman frequently has a portion of the man’s blood circulating in her veins for nine months at a time” alluding of course to the period of gestation. If this were at all the true solution, the resemblance ought to be most strongly developed in couples who have had large families, and it ought to be that the woman becomes like the man and not vice versâ. I do not know if any observations have ever been made on this head, or whether matters have been found to accord with the conclusions from Dr. Lee’s suggestion. If so the case appears to me to furnish strong collateral evidence in favour of your hypothesis. At any rate I thought it worth mentioning to you—

With much respect I remain | Dear Sir | very faithfully yours | C. L. Acland


Acland refers to Robert Lee, and to CD’s ‘provisional hypothesis of pangenesis’, Variation 2: 357–404. In ibid., pp. 252–3, CD dicussed the blending of parental characters and the possible causes of variability in offspring. Acland may also have had in mind Variation 2: 365–6, in which CD discussed the direct action of the male element on the female.


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


Is studying Variation, especially Pangenesis. Reports earlier notion of Dr Robert Lee, that resemblance between husband and wife may be partly owing to her having man’s blood circulating in her during pregnancies; thus spouses most resemble each other in large families.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Lawford Acland
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 159: A7
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7303,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18