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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   21 July [1869]1

Caerdeon, Barmouth | N. Wales

July 21st

My dear Sir

I have to thank you for many things including the grand illustration & account of the Crested Turkey.2

I am glad to hear about the transmission of colour in the Greyhound, & especially about the black & tan colours appearing without cause.—3

What a curious letter is Major Hollands! As you no doubt know Strelecki maintained the very same law about the Australian women, but it has not been confirmed by further observations4   Yet it seems hardly credible that the same belief shd. arise in Borneo & Australia without foundation.

I can generally read every word which you write, but I cannot read the word before spangled in the enclosed: to save you trouble I enclose an envelope addressed; & please rewrite the word, & add answer to the P.S.

Can you do me the real kindness to make an effort & to find out soon the character of plumage of any Cuckoo sub-breed & of any Spangled Polish breed, in which the adult sexes are alike.—5 If I could find out these, they wd. suffice for me: I am almost certain that I have noticed the cuckoo marks in young chickens, but I fear to trust my memory.—

When near the time of starting for America, let me hear & you may feel sure that I will do what I can. But I know personally no one there, except Prof Asa Gray, & he will not be returned from Europe so soon— I have formerly corresponded with Dana of New Haven & Wyman of Boston; but I hardly know how far I shd be justified in giving a letter of introduction to them.—6 We have corresponded only on Science; but they feel friendly towards me.— Anyhow I will do what I can.

Your’s very faithfully & | truly obliged | Ch. Darwin

I cannot say much about my confounded health.—


Sebright bantams

Sexes alike at 7 and 8 weeks both being mossily? spangled not definitely laced8

The darkest birds when in the early plumage being the best laced eventually

From Mr E Hewitt9 a very successful breeder of this variety.

P.S. Do you suppose that the spangles in the young Sebrights would be circular or crescent shaped, for the latter ⁠⟨⁠illeg⁠⟩⁠ change into lacing


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 20 July 1869.
Major Holland has not been identified. See letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 20 July 1869 and n. 4. In Physical description of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land (Strzelecki 1845), p. 347, Paul Edmund de Strzelecki maintained that Australian women who had had intercourse with European men became infertile with their own race. CD scored the passage in his copy of the work, which is now in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 790–1). See also Descent 1: 220–1, n. 10, where CD gave evidence that the claim had been disproved.
CD discussed cuckoo sub-breeds of fowl in Variation 1: 244. The name comes from the cuckoo-like appearance of the plumage of these varieties.
See letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 20 July 1869. CD refers to James Dwight Dana and Jeffries Wyman.
The enclosure is in Tegetmeier’s hand, except for the postscript, which is in CD’s hand, and is part of an otherwise missing enclosure to Tegetmeier’s letter of 20 July 1869. CD has underlined ‘mossily’ and added the question mark following it.
‘Spangled’ refers to a crescent-shaped marking at the feather-tip, while ‘laced’ refers to an edging of colour around the feather. In Tegetmeier 1867, p. 148, Tegetmeier referred to feathers with a ‘mossy appearance’ as being caused by ‘two colours running into one another’.
Edward Hewitt.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1867. The poultry book: comprising the breeding and management of profitable and ornamental poultry, their qualities and characteristics; to which is added ‘The standard of excellence in exhibition birds’, authorized by the Poultry Club. London and New York: George Routledge & Sons.

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


Further queries on poultry plumage.

WBT’s visit to America.

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. 6839,” accessed on 2 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17