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Darwin Correspondence Project

From R. S. Skirving   [1860?]1

Then as to the sitting on trees. An Arab village in these parts is a conglomeration of tall dome shaped mud hovels each much in the form of a thimble. The top part of each is a dove cot. I see no reason why the pigeons did not light on the tops of these houses, but it was certainly not their custom to do so— They seemed always to light upon the few trees (other than Palms) which 〈    〉 has about the 〈    〉 to excess, 〈section missing

With regard to the acorn in the crop of the wood pigeon shot here, I cannot state the fact in the same positive manner I can as to the habits of the Egyptian birds.2 It is long since the incident, & I was indeed a boy at the time. Still I have no doubt in my mind that the acorn was larger & longer than any that grow in Scotland.

Not long ago I saw what seemed similar acorns growing on dwarf oaks in the Island of Corfu. The bird from which I took the acorn, I saw shot out of an immense flock, which seemed to be making a steady flight from the German Ocean, & I conjectured they were arriving from some part of the continent. 〈section missing

It may never 〈    〉 be all mortal, in death he may

〈    〉 lately for the first time. Of course you might ask is a dead foetus then immortal. I would ask, was it ever a being? However, once admit that man has at any period a soul, & it would follow he was utterly different from all the animals that lived before he was introduced into the world. If so, a new & special act of creative power has been exhibited, & if one act why not any number?3

Yours faithfully | R Scot Skirving

CD annotations

1.2 dome shaped mud hovels] ‘of a single story’ added pencil
4.1 It may never … Skirving 5.1] crossed pencil


For the basis of the date see the preceding letter, n. 1.
The letter was glued to the bottom of the preceding letter. The reference to an acorn in the crop of a wood pigeon is presumably in response to a query from CD about the preceding letter.
The reference to a ‘special act of creative power’ suggests Skirving was writing to CD after the publication of Origin.


Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Pigeons in Egypt alight on trees rather than on the mud hovels of the natives [see Variation 1: 181].

[Two fragments glued to 2196.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Scot Skirving
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.2: 250b
Physical description
4pp inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2197,” accessed on 27 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8