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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   14 April [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 14th

My dear Sir

I am extremely sorry to hear of the cause of your silence: I had attributed it to being much engaged, for I had heard that you had been lecturing. Unfortunately you do not say, whether you would like to see the skins of the Burmese fowls; which if you like shd. be sent anywhere carriage free to be called for you.2 Perhaps you have given up all intention of noticing foreign breeds, but I hope that this may not be the case.— I found the account of the hybrid fowl-pheasants in your Poultry Book extremely valuable to me: but I have not yet read the whole work as I shall, when I come again to treat of domestic varieties.3

I did not know that you had attended to Bees:4 I am not in that line, but will show your paper to two friends that live near here.5

In about six weeks’ time I shall go over all my Pigeon M.S. & shall then dispose of all my Birds.6 If you thought any were worth your acceptance & cd. spare a day, (I cd. send to meet you at & take you back to Beckenham Stn. only 6 or 7 miles from London Bridge) & bring Baskets, you might take any which you thought worth the carriage:

This being the case, you will see that I need not accept your kind offer of Owls— if, however, you could give me a young Owl, within 24 hours of coming out of shell, it wd. be a treasure to me.—7

With my sympathy, & thanks for all your kindness, pray believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

Do not answer about the Fowls, without you would like to see them.—

Next Tuesday I leave home for a fortnight—


Dated by the reference to CD’s intention to ‘go over all my Pigeon M.S.’ See n. 6, below.
See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 17 January [1858], in which CD mentions poultry skins from Burma that had been sent to him by Walter Elliot.
Tegetmeier ed. 1856–7, pp. 123–4. CD cited information from the second edition of Tegetmeier’s Poultry book (Tegetmeier 1866–67) in Variation 2: 45. CD’s annotated copies of all the parts of Tegetmeier ed. 1856–7 that were published are in the Darwin Library–CUL. CD had first discussed crosses such as these in 1857 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 February [1857], and letters from Edward Hewitt, 18 December 1857 and 22 December 1857).
For Tegetmeier’s work on bees, see Richardson 1916, pp. 41–50. Tegetmeier was a regular contributor on bees and bee-keeping to the Cottage Gardener.
Tegetmeier’s paper was probably a copy of a short article published in Cottage Gardener 20 (1858): 59, describing a new kind of beehive. He had exhibited the hive at a meeting of the Entomological Society of London on 5 April 1858 (Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 5 (1858–61), Proceedings, p. 17). The ‘two friends’ to whom CD refers were probably John Innes, perpetual curate of Down, with whom CD had corresponded about bees (Correspondence vol. 6, letter to John Innes, [after 16 February 1857]), and Louis Knight Bruce, of the nearby village of Keston (see letter to W. E. Darwin, [26 May 1858]).
CD recorded that he began writing his manuscript on ‘Pigeons’ on 14 June 1858 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
CD refers to a breed of pigeon known as the owl-pigeon (see Variation 1: 148–9). Owls are closely related to turbits, which CD considered to be of very ancient origin (Variation 1: 209). He was comparing the plumage of newly hatched pigeons and chicks to see whether he could shed light on the ancestral similarities and dissimilarities of well-established breeds.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Richardson, Edmund William. 1916. A veteran naturalist; being the life and work of W. B. Tegetmeier. London: Witherby & Co.

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


CD will go over his pigeon MS and then dispose of all his birds. Has Burmese fowls’ skins if WBT is interested.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2255,” accessed on 27 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7