Characterisation, especially by Letters 589
I have a donkey-cart and donkey lent me for two months and am just returned from a fourmile, in all, expedition. The donkey is an aged pet, much accustomed to have her own way. Still she pulls. I have no news. Life goes on monotonously and pleasantly and novels, etc., are read. A good deal in the Eugenics line is going on this week. Miss Elderton, the very capable Research Scholar, reads a memoir on Cousin Marriages. She has been working at 2000 of them for some months with the usual result that their ill-effects are statistically insignificant. When observed, they seem due to both cousins having the same bad quality. But I have not seen her paper yet. She is such a zealous, capable, nice girl, and is now familiar with the higher statistics. Her brother is a first-rate actuary too, which is all in the same way. I take it that the actuaries are, as a class, the hardest headed men in the community. The problems they have to deal with are sometimes very stiff ones. Tell me of any good book you know of, to get from the Times library to read. Best loves to you all from us both.
Ever affectionately yours, FRANCIS GALTON.
MEADOW COTTAGE, BROCKHAM GREEN, BETCHWORTH, SURREY. December 14, 1908.
DEAREST MILLY, I have nothing to tell. My life is largely taken up with donkey drives and novel readings. At this moment with Waverley, just previously with Guy Mannering. Eva went up to some Eugenics gatherings last week and reports enthusiasm in many quarters. Also some good work is being done. I have just got (from the Times library) Waldstein's new book about Herculaneum, which gives, to most persons, a new view. It is not embedded in lava. No lava came near the place until long after its burial, and then only in patches which afford useful covering to excavators. He, Waldstein, is very sanguine, and has been pushing forward international help with rather too much zeal, so that the Italians are made jealous. However, they are going to begin and have voted money. We, I in the donkey-chair, called to-day on some people. By a strange coincidence the daughter-in-law, Mrs A'Court, of the (blind) owner, Mrs A'Court senior, of the chair and of the donkey, Jemima, was staying there. Now Jemima has been petted all her life and the meeting of the two old friends was touching. Jemima is turned out into our meadow when the weather is suitable. She follows Eva like a dog through the garden on the way to it, and comes up and does the same conversely, when wanted for the carriage. Odd creatures donkeys are,-so near to perfection and yet short of it. With best loves. Ever affectionately, FRANCIS GALTON.
I am too late for the post to-day.
MEADOW COTTAGE, BROCKHAM GREEN, BETCHWORTH, SURREY. December 19, 1908.
DEAREST MILLY, This will be my Xmas letter to you, with all good wishes to all of you. You tell me many things, showing how occupied you must be at this time. On the contrary, I am sadly un-Xmaslike in arrangements. Lucy and Cameron Galton come down to us on Friday for a few nights; that is all the family gathering possible to me here. We asked Alice Corbett for Xmas but she was engaged. Also, three days ago we lunched and spent some time at Henrietta Litchfield's (14 hours' drive off) to meet Frank Darwin, his daughter and Mr Cornford to whom she is engaged. It was all very pleasant. She (the daughter) managed the Comus masque at Cambridge, but did not act in it. He did. He is a Fellow of Trinity College. You say I have a kindly heart towards donkeys. You recollect perhaps Coleridge's not very wise ode to a young ass and Byron's comment on it : " A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind." An ass is certainly a mysterious animal, and the continual and usually independent movements of his long ears testify to the busy thoughts or perceptions of the beast. But its obstinacy! What a martyr an ass would make to any cause that it pleased to favour. I write this by Saturday's evening post and wonder whether it will reach you Sunday, Monday or even Tuesday. All depends on the route it has to take. I am puzzling all day, day after day, over an apparently simple problem in my favourite statistics, but can't wholly satisfy myself even yet in explaining it on paper.
Ever affectionately, with love to you all in which Eva joins, FRANCIS GALTON.