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Letter 10072

Papé, Charlotte to Darwin, C. R.

16 July 1875


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)].


Lark Hill House | Edgeley | Stockport

July 16th. 75

Dear Mr. Darwin,

I must ask your pardon and your indulgence for the great libertyI am going to take just now in begging of you the favour to look atthe enclosed paper.f1 The general interest which I always took inquestions relating to the laws that regulate the developement of lifehas been raised to a very strong wish to know as much about it asI can, by your own works, which I have only now been able to reallyread; and Mr. Francis Galton’s books have shown me, in what, onthe whole, simple way facts bearing on some questions of Hereditymay be collected.f2 I have been thinking that perhaps even I mightbe able, by accurately tabulating and comparing such cases as I know,to do something towards ascertaining the truth or error of some ofMr. Galton’s conclusions, at least as far as my own conviction isconcerned. 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 whethermental qualities are at all limited by it. I am well aware that yourown, I think, provisional view is, that even mental qualitiesare thus limited;f3 I myself know so comparatively many striking instancesto the contrary, among my friends and my own family, that it seemshighly improbable to me. At any rate, every woman ought to try toascertain as much of the truth in respect to it as she can; for apartfrom the interest of the question in itself, it is most important forthe 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 lookat it and tell me, whether, if I do so, the conclusions appearing fromsuch tables would be trustworthy as far as they go; also what numberof families would be the minimum for a reliable average, and anyother 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 attainany now. And it is just this very helplessness as to gettinginformation, or even any word of advice and criticism that I couldtrust more than my own that must form my excuse for the unwarrantableliberty I am taking, and plead with your kindness for the granting ofthe favour I beg. I literally know of no one to ask, except theillustrious authority I am addressing; and so doing I wonder at myown boldness. If you think such tables no good, at least if notput together by more skilful hands, of course, I shall not attemptto fill them out.

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

DAR 174: 27



The enclosure has not been found.
Francis Galton had published two books on inheritedcharacteristics in families, Galton 1869 and Galton 1874.
For CD’s views on the comparative mental powers of men and women, seeDescent 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.
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