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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. D. Bartlett   24 August [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

Augt. 24th

Dear Sir

I have directed a copy of my “Origin of Species” to be sent to your address to the Socy. Rooms in Hanover Sqre, & I hope that you will do me the favour to accept it.—2 If you will read the Ch. on Hybridism at p. 264 you will see why I am curious about the embryos in eggs from first crosses.—3 I was very glad to see a Donkey with a wild ass in the Gardens for I infer from this that you intend rearing a Hybrid; if so I hope that you will look carefully for stripes on shoulder & legs in the foal; you will see why I am so curious on this head, if you will read the little discussion in the Origin from p. 163–167.—4

I will let you hear about the Moscow Rabbits, after I have heard from the young Lady who bought them, whether she consents to their being sent to the Gardens.—5

I was much interested by the facts you kindly communicated to me6 & remain Dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin

If you should hear from Hunt anything about the Records of the gestation of the Canidæ—or about the parents of Hybrid Jackal, perhaps you will be so kind as to inform me.—7


The year is established by the dates of publication of the first three editions of Origin (Freeman 1977). The discussions and pages to which CD refers are found in the first and second editions of Origin, published in November 1859 and January 1860 respectively. The third edition of Origin was published in April 1861 with different pagination.
Bartlett was superintendent of the gardens of the Zoological Society of London (Modern English biography); the offices of the society were at 11 Hanover Square (Scherren 1905, p. 99).
CD refers to part of the section entitled ‘Causes of the sterility of first crosses and of hybrids’ (Origin, pp. 263–7). On page 264, CD considered two mechanisms of sterility in first crosses, that is, crosses between distinct species; his curiosity related to abortion following fertilisation, a mechanism that he thought had not been ‘sufficiently attended to’. Bartlett, whose assistance CD acknowledged frequently in Variation and Descent, was not cited on this subject in CD’s works.
CD evidently visited Bartlett at the gardens of the Zoological Society while in London on or after 21 August 1860 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). The wild ass is likely to have been Asinus hemionus (the Kiang or Tibetan wild ass) or A. hemippus, specimens of both species having been acquired in 1859 by the Zoological Society (Sclater 1862, pp. 163–4). CD considered the presence of stripes in horses and their relatives as a reversion to a primitive character (Origin, pp. 163–7; see also Correspondence vols. 6–8 and Variation 2: 351).
In Variation 1: 106–7, CD reported receiving two live rabbits from Moscow and commented on their colouring; no indication has been found in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London of their receipt at the society’s gardens in Regent’s Park. These rabbits appeared to be closely related to a species that Bartlett had provisionally named Lepus nigripes (Bartlett 1857; see also Variation 1: 108–10).
The letter from Bartlett has not been found.
James Hunt was head keeper at the gardens of the Zoological Society until 1859 (Scherren 1905, p. 104). No information from him on these subjects has been found. However, details of the gestation periods of members of the Canidae, and of a sterile female from a jackal crossed with a domestic dog at the zoological gardens, appeared in Variation 1: 29–30 and 32–3.


Sends copy of Origin.

Discusses stripes on hybrid of donkey and wild ass.

Will let ADB know if lady consents to sending rabbits to [Zoological] Gardens.

Asks about gestation of Canidae.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Abraham Dee Bartlett
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. 4273,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)