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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. B. Jukes   3 November 1862

Geological Survey of Ireland, | Office, 51, Stephen’s Green, Dublin,

Nov 3rd 1862

My dear Darwin

You know of course how the inaccuracy of some little trifling incidental statement in a book reflects its authority in the minds of some people who never take the trouble to compare the crooked grain of sand with the symmetrical mountain.

I heard your Origin of Species laughed at the other day because you assume that the young bird pecks its way out of the shell with its own beak.—1 Certainly this seems to me an impossibility looking at the way in wh. the young bird is coiled up in the shell with its beak almost under its wing (see for instance the plate in Rymer Jones Outlines An: Kingd)2

—Others present supposed that the old bird broke the egg for the young one to come out, & my wife tells me that that was the way all the old henwives told her it was done.—

Your critic however said that on applying to an old woman on the point she laughed at him and said “why Lord bless you, Sir, the young un’ grows too big for the shell & busts it” & that does seem to me the most reasonable supposition—

Your statement at p 87 wd. therefore either need revision or the facts on which it is based verification.—3

Believe me | Very truly yours | J. Beete Jukes


Jukes refers to Origin, p. 87 (see n. 3, below); the same passage appears in the third edition of Origin (p. 92).
Jones 1841, p. 630 (fig. 292).
Origin, p. 87. In his copy of the third edition of Origin, which is in the Rare Books Room–CUL, CD added opposite this passage (p. 92): ‘all right | Jukes says I am laughed at about Chickens breaking eggs. See Dixon Poultry p. 213.’ The reference is to Dixon 1848, a copy of which is in the Darwin Library–CUL. The passage remained unchanged in the fourth edition of Origin (p. 99).


Dixon, Edmund Saul. 1848. Ornamental and domestic poultry: their history and management. London: Office of the “Gardeners’ Chronicle”.

Jones, Thomas Rymer. 1841. A general outline of the animal kingdom, and manual of comparative anatomy. London.

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.


The statement on p. 87 of Origin that birds break the eggs with their own beaks should be revised.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Beete Jukes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Geol. Surv. Ireland, Dublin
Source of text
DAR 168: 92
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3794,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10