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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Hugh Falconer    [December? 1844]1



My dear Sir

I return you the notes on the mule Yaks, with very many thanks.2 I also send two copies of my questions on Silk-worms.3 You will see there is a good deal of tautology in my queries, but I have generally found, a little repetition quite necessary. It is exceedingly kind of your brother, being so willing thus to take trouble for me.4 I am certainly very anxious to get information on these points, for it bears on hereditariness at a time of life, when it cannot be well tested in any other animals.5

I enjoyed exceedingly our conversation the other day and reaped much good from it. I need not of course say that a bed will be ready for you at any time, when you will come here. I hope, however it will be when the weather is rather milder—6

Down near (i.e., 212 miles) Farnborough is more geographically correct, than near Bromley. There is a daily coach here from the Bolt-in-tun Fleet St.

Believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


The date is conjectured from the reference to Falconer’s notes on mule yaks (see n. 2, below) and from the reference to the cold weather (see n. 6, below). This letter was previously published in the Supplement to Correspondence vol. 7 with the date [before 8 March 1846]. The original footnotes have been rewritten.
The notes on yaks were copied by CD’s amanuensis Mr Fletcher, and corrected by CD before being returned to Falconer. The copy is in DAR 205.7: 221. The use of bright blue ink by Fletcher and gold-brown ink by CD indicate that the copy was made in 1844, the only year these inks appear together ( Falconer’s information derived from a trip he made to Tibet in 1837 and 1838; his account of the expedition remained in manuscript, however, until after his death. The passages on hybrid yaks that were copied by CD were eventually published in C. Murchison ed. 1868, 1: 581–2.
CD’s questionnaire on breeding and variation of silkworms has not been found.
Probably Alexander Falconer, who was a merchant in Calcutta. Falconer himself was unable to respond because he was on leave of absence from his post as superintendent of the botanic gardens in Saharanpur, and remained in England from 1843 to 1847 before returning to India to take up the directorship of the Calcutta botanic garden. In Variation 1: 301, when discussing the great care taken in selecting the best cocoons and moths for breeding silkworms, CD reported: ‘I have made inquiries through Dr. Falconer, and am assured that in India the natives are equally careful in the process of selection.’ This information was acquired either by Alexander Falconer or by Hugh Falconer after his return to India in 1847.
In Variation 1: 300, CD stated: ‘These insects are in several respects interesting to us, more especially because they have varied largely at early periods of life, and the variations have been inherited at corresponding periods.’
The winter of 1844–5 was very cold, with the severe weather starting in December (see ‘London weather’, The Times, 7 December 1844, p. 3, and ‘The weather’, ibid., p. 7). CD and Falconer’s conversation may have been about Falconer’s views on the relationship between large mammals and cold climates; there is a manuscript note on the subject dated ‘Nov /44’ in DAR 205.9: 189.


Returns notes on mule yaks [see Natural selection, p. 438]

and sends queries on silkworms.

A bed is ready any time HF will come.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Hugh Falconer
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 144: 17
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1691,” accessed on 26 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7 (Supplement) and 24 (Supplement)