# From Edward Blyth   8 December 1855

Calcutta,

Decr. 8/55—

My dear Sir,

For the Ayin Akbari, consult the well known translation by Gladwin, 2 Vols. 8 vo.,8 which you might see at the India-house or British Museum libraries, &c &c. Our hybrid race of tame Geese. So far as I have seen, these are very uniform in character; and they are fully as prolific as the European tame Goose. Their colouring is that of cygnoides, but I think the longitudinal nape-streak is scarcely so deep—but they are generally white or partially white: the form intermediate to cygnoides & ordinary Anser; the frontal knob much reduced; & colour of this & of the bill & feet light orange, with often black spots and small patches on the feet. True cygnoides has black bill & feet, excepting the white race or variety, which has them of a bright orange. Remember that I am describing from memory, as the mail is about to close. You ask me to publish my ideas about the domestic Cat. I may do so in a series of papers which I have promised to write for the ‘Calcutta Sporting Review’, where I have undertaken “the Feline animals of India”,—have already got a long article on Asiatic Lions printed off, and have partly written one on the Tiger— Moreover I have written a long article upon “wild Asses”, of which I think I have proved that only one species is known, which is the Ghor-Khur (or ‘Horse-Ass’), hemionus (or ‘half-Ass’) hemippus (or ‘$\frac{1}{2}$ horse’), &c &c, including onager (or ‘wild Ass’) & the Tibetan Kyang. True, the contrast is enormous between Guzerat, Rajputana, & Cutch,—the lowland sandy desert,—& the intensely cold elevated regions of Tibet; but though he does not pass through the Punjab & up the wooded regions of the Himalaya, he is nevertheless find in Sindh, Afghanistan, Mesopotamia, & through northern Persia right up to the Aral, in gradually increasing numbers, & then all through Gt. Tartary to the frontiers of Tibet, according to Pallas, & in Tibet as the Khyang. Gmelins supposed wild Ass is merely a Dziggetai with a short shoulder stripe,9 such as has likewise been seen in Indian specimens, but very rarely. I will send you all these papers as soon as I can, & if you ask me why I publish them in a sporting Journal, it is because I get about £5 a piece for them, & besides I address through such a medium a great number of observers, from whom I hope to elicit more facts. My description of the skeleton of the new Orang-utan (P. curtus) is also in type,10 & the skeleton has been mounted, & the other great Orang skeletons will soon be.

—Time begins to press: so I cannot go much into the subject of domestic Pigeons. I will see what I can do for you; but not with dealers—with wealthy baboos rather,11 who keep lots of Pigeons: but the everlasting Hindu prejudices are always in the way. They cannot be made to comprehend what interest I can feel in a dead bird, & the carcass is sure to be pitched away, as soon as ever any animal is dead.— You will have recd. my printed letter.12 Do nothing with it till you hear further from me; & there is no longer time to write now. So kindly excuse the scrawl, as usual, & believe me | Ever truly Yours, | E Blyth—

## CD annotations

1.4 Wallace’s … whole!] double scored pencil, scored brown crayon
1.12 but I … variety, 1.13] scored brown crayon
1.15 The Pavo … suspected a 1.17] scored brown crayon
1.20 yellow … variety. 1.23] scored brown crayon
1.28 same author’s … notices 1.29] double scored brown crayon
1.32 might tell … B.C. 1.58] scored brown crayon
1.56 published … B.C. 1.58] double scored brown crayon
2.1 For … patches 2.8] scored brown crayon
2.1 For … India-house 2.2] double scored brown crayon
2.12 promised … India”, 2.13] scored brown crayon
Top of first page: ‘Ayin [’i‘over ’e‘] Akbari. Gladwin’ pencil; ‘8’ brown crayon
Verso of last page: ‘8’brown crayon

## Footnotes

Wallace 1855, ‘On the law which has regulated the introduction of new species’, appeared in the September 1855 issue of Annals and Magazine of Natural History. Alfred Russel Wallace had been studying the geographical distribution of animals and plants for many years. In his paper, he concluded that every species had come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre- existing closely allied species. CD scored Blyth’s reference to the paper in the margin of the letter, but there is no indication when he first read it. CD’s copy of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History, in which Wallace 1855 appeared, is in the Darwin Library–CUL. The paper was annotated and several passages were scored by CD. CD’s separate notes on volumes fifteen (January–June 1855) and sixteen (July–December 1855) of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History contain the following comments on Wallace 1855: 185 Wallace’s paper: Laws of Geograph. Distrib. nothing very new— 186 His general summary “Every species has come into existence coincident in time & space with preexisting species.”— Uses my simile of tree— It seems all creation with him— Alludes to Galapagos 189 on even adjoining species being closest— (It is all creation, but why does [interl above ‘is’] his law hold good; he puts the facts in striking point of view— 194 Argues against our supposed geological perfect knowledge— Explains Rudimentary organs on same idea (I shd. state that put generation for creation & I quite agree)
Heron 1835, p. 54. CD scored this passage in his copy of the paper (Darwin Library–CUL).
Buchanan 1838.
Buchanan 1807, 2: 8–12 and Plates XV–XIII.
Bulimus is referred to in Wallace 1855, pp. 189. For descriptions of Helix and Bulimus specimens collected by Hugh Cuming in the Philippines, see Broderip 1840–1 and G. B. Sowerby 1840–1.
The Annals of Natural History 1 (1838): 228–9 reports on a meeting of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh held on 11 January 1838, at which Randle Wilbraham Falconer read a paper entitled ‘On the ancient history of the rose’.
Gladwin trans. 1783–6. See letter to Edward Blyth, 4 August 1855, for Blyth’s first mention of the Ayeen Akbery.
See letter from Edward Blyth, 21 April 1855, for his earlier comments on Johann Georg Gmelin’s wild ass.
For Blyth’s description of Pithecus curtus, see Blyth 1855d, pp. 525–6.
This may be a reference to a request Blyth made to the directors of the Asiatic Society of Bengal for an increase in salary and a pension (Grote 1875, p. ix, reprinted in Eisely 1959, Appendix B).

## Summary

What does CD think of A. R. Wallace’s paper in the Annals & Magazine of Natural History ["On the law which has regulated the introduction of new species", n.s. 16 (1855): 184–96]? EB considers it good on the whole.

Japanned variety of peacock.

Regional variations in bird species.

EB has little faith in the aboriginal wildness of the Chillingham cattle.

Races of humped cattle of India, China, and Africa.

Indian and Malayan gigantic squirrels, with various races remaining true to their colour, would afford capital data for Wallace, as would the local varieties of certain molluscs. Has Wallace’s lucid collation of facts unsettled CD’s ideas regarding the persistence of species?

Bengal hybrid race of geese is very uniform in colour and as prolific as the European tame goose [see Natural selection, p. 439].

Will see what he can do for CD with regard to domestic pigeons.

## Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-1792
From
Edward Blyth
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Calcutta
Source of text
DAR 98: A104–A107
Physical description
7pp †