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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   16 November [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 16th

My dear Sir

I want to beg a little advice from you, if you will give it me when at leisure, if that blessed time ever comes to you. I want to try the following little experiment, viz to get a cock & some Hens of several breeds, which never have red feathers in them; & then let them cross, & their mongrel children cross again & see whether red birds will not appear.2

Now for this I shd. keep only birds, which are true to their kinds. Do you think the following list good or would you advise any changes?— I shd. have to make away with all my poultry, except two hens.— diag One old Spanish Cock

Silver Poland

Black Rumpless

Silver pencilled Hamburgh

Silver spangled Hamburgh.

1 or 2 White Sussex

Grey Dorking ???

Large White Bantam or Ptarmigan

=7 or 8 Hens & one Cockramme The hens might be this year birds; & need not be good of their kinds if purely bred.—

Would Mr Baker be a good man to apply to & can you give me any idea how much per Bird I shd. have to pay for so miscellaneous a lot?3

I shd. be very much obliged if you would advise me. I shd keep the succeeding year 2 or 3 or 4 mongrel cocks & mongrels Hens from all, & destroy all the old pure Birds, Cocks & Hens.—

Perhaps it would be better to keep my Polish Cock & destroy my present Polish Hen & get one Spanish Hen, so as to avoid too much blackness in the crossed offspring.—

I fear you will think me very troublesome: pray forgive me & believe me | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

In last nor of Gardeners Chronicle, I have written article on Bees & flowers.4


The year is given by CD’s reference to his paper in the Gardeners’ Chronicle (see n. 4, below).
CD wished to see whether the crossing of certain breeds of poultry would produce birds with the colouring of the presumed ancestral breed, Gallus bankiva. In his Experimental book, p. 41 (DAR 157a), CD recorded the progress of this experiment during 1859. His notes open with the comment: ‘In winter killed all my Hens’. The results were eventually given in Variation 1: 240–3.
CD’s Account book (Down House MS) records a number of purchases of fowls from ‘Mr Baker’ in 1856, 1857, and 1858. From the address given in CD’s Address book (Down House MS), he refers either to Samuel C. or Charles N. Baker, ‘bird & live animal dealers’ at 3 Halfmoon Passage, off Gracechurch Street and Beaufort Street, Chelsea, London (Post Office London directory 1858).
Letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 13 November 1858].


Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

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


Wants WBT’s advice on poultry breeding experiments. Are certain birds true to their kind, and what should he pay for them?

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. 2362,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

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