RECORD: Richmond, W. B. 1926. [Recollection of Darwin's words in 1879 on child development]. In A. M. W. Stirling, The Richmond papers: from the correspondence and manuscripts of George Richmond, R.A., and his son, Sir William Richmond R.A., K.C.B. London: William Heinemann, p. 101.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 8.2023. RN1

NOTE: William Blake Richmond spent time with Darwin in June 1879 in order to paint his portrait in scarlet LL.D. gown, commissioned by the Cambridge Philosophical Society, known sometimes as the red portrait, after Emma Darwin's description. Now hangs in the Department of Zoology, Cambridge. A copy in the family. See also Richmond's recollection of Darwin in A2976.

[page] 101

Once I asked Mr. Darwin which of the years of a child's life were the most subject to incubative impressions; his answer was: 'Without doubt, the first three.' This appeared to be a rash statement from so cautious a thinker, but the reason he gave was that the brain at that period is entirely formed — it is a virgin brain adapted to receive impressions, and although unable to formulate or memorize these, they nonetheless remain and can affect the whole future of the child-recipient.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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