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Darwin Correspondence Project

To F. B. Zincke   26 May [1876]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R. [Hopedene, Surrey.]

May 26th

Dear Sir

I am very much obliged for your interesting letter.2 The case of the white chickens surprises me much, but nothing can be more perplexing than the ‘laws & causes of variability & inheritance.3 I am glad that any of my books should have at all interested you, as some return for the pleasure which I have derived from yours.4

I am writing this away from home, which I have left for some rest, so I beg you to excuse brevity.—5

Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from F. B. Zincke, 23 [May 1876], concerning topics in Variation and Descent, and to the reference to CD being away; since the publication of Descent in 1871, the only year that CD was away on 26 May for the purpose of rest was 1876 (see letter to Ernst Haeckel, 14 May 1876 and n. 4).
Zincke had reported that ten per cent of the offspring from crosses between different breeds of fowls had white feathers, even though none of the parents had white feathers (letter from F. B. Zincke, 23 [May 1876]).
Zincke published works on education, travel, and politics (ODNB). There are no books by Zincke in the Darwin Libraries at CUL or Down, but the catalogue of the library of William Erasmus Darwin (CUL: Add ms 8081) records that he had a copy of Egypt of the pharaohs and of the khedivé (Zincke 1871).
CD stayed at Hopedene, the home of Hensleigh Wedgwood and his family, from 24 May to 7 June 1876 (‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Zincke, Foster Barham. 1871. Egypt of the pharaohs and of the khedivé. London: Smith, Elder, and Co.


Thanks for a letter describing variation in chickens.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Foster Barham Zincke
Source of text
Natural Sciences collections at the Faculty Library of Natural and Health Sciences, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10515F,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24