368 Life and Letters of Francis Galton
truthful which at once meets all of us when we attempt to deal with the heredity of pathological conditions. In the humbler classes of society, who form the bulk of hospital patients, there is sometimes almost a pride in the possession of malformations and of pathological conditions. Many of the women are only too ready to talk about them, and to exhibit any children who may possess them. It is possibly the great interest which they observe is excited among medical men by pathological states, which leads them to be pleased at being noteworthy even for a deformity'. Unfortunately the family records and traditions in hospital cases are often woefully scanty. The greatgrand-parents are rarely to be traced, and only too often little if anything is known of the families of uncles or aunts. On the other hand, when we turn to social classes where the knowledge of ancestry and collaterals is considerable, we are too often met by an indignant refusal to give information, even if it be needed for scientific purposes. No retreat for the insane or sanatorium for the tuberculous designed for patients of middle or upper class status is able to provide adequate material for heredity. The inquirer is solemnly informed that the grandfather died of inflammation following a chill, that the sister pined away after the death of her fiance, or that the father was at times eccentric, the aunt had attacks of the nerves, or the cousin brain-fever due to overwork. It does not profit to give way to discouragement, or feel sore before rebuffs, if you want to study human heredity. The only resource is to try and educate the so-called educated classes and produce if possible a more reasonable attitude towards hereditary matters amongst them. Galton achieved much in this direction and if it is still difficult to make rapid progress, it is certainly easier than it was before he started his campaign against the folly, not to say crime, which would screen family history not only from the future wife, but from adult children. Galton writes on this second point in 1902 with the sagacity of old age; he has learnt that to brand such
action as "ignoble cowardice"' may be absolute truth, but it will hardly obtain what we need from the cowards. He says
"It is too much to expect that even the most scrupulously kept records will be written throughout with perfect veracity. Healthy minded persons are seldom disposed to lay themselves wholly bare in written words. There will be omissions in every Album, sometimes of matters of fact and at other times of the real inwardness of events, that are of high importance to the right understanding of a life-history. The writer of the Album will mentally supply the omissions and interpret the misleading euphemisms when he refers to its pages; other persons who read his records must be prepared for their existence. Thus in matters of disease, an unsurmountable prejudice exists in many sensitive persons against ascribing cancer and insanity to their ancestors in direct terms. They shrink from the thought of recording hereditary possibilities that might destroy the peace of mind of their descendants, and perhaps work their own fulfilment. The duty of parents to be truthful histographers seems overborne by what they consider to be a still more pressing duty to their children. It is almost useless to attempt to calm hypersensitive feelings by pointing to the fact that healthful tendencies are just as heritable as morbid ones, and that every
child is sure to be endowed with both. So I will confine myself to the mention of an instructive
1 The psychology of these cases is similar to that of many persons, who being connected with some appalling criminal trial seem pleased with the momentary notoriety which carries their portraits into the cheap illustrated daily papers, possibly the one chance of publicity in their lives. I am by no means certain that it is not the same human frailty, under a thin covering of veneer, which causes the bride of another class to send her photograph to the ' society' papers.