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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alfred Moschkau1   2 [December] 18732

Nied. Oderwitz,

d. 2. Nov. 1873.

Hochverehrter Meister!

Sehr geehrter Herr!

Besten Dank für Ihren freundl. Brief u. die Mittheilung, dass ich meine Aufzeichnungen über die Transmutationslehre doch nicht wagen darf3—der Henne das Ei—Ihnen zu ubersenden, zumal ich in der Häckel’schen Schöpfungsgeschichte Alles viel besser fand.4

Doch eines muss ich Ihnen nennen. Es betrifft die Züchtung der Canarienvögel im Harz, dieser Vogel existirt doch fast gar nicht mehr in seinen ursprünglichen Sein, ja ich glaube die jetzt lebende Art eignet sich garnicht mehr für ein Leben in der freien Natur— dies sind nur Umwandlungserfolge, der Schlag der wilden (im Freien lebenden—unveredelten) Canarienvögel kann sich nimmer vergleichen mit dem der echten Harzer, was doch wohl auf eine im Laufe der Zeit peu à peu gewordene Umänderung der Sangesorgane schliessen lässt. Auch das Gefieder ist ein viel weicheres, mehr wolliges bei den edleren als den Wilden, die in Deutschland rar werden.5

Auch hier ist deutlich erkennbar der “Kampf um’s Dasein”. Die milden-melodiösen Schläger züchtet man, sie mehren sich in Menge, die Wilden sucht man der Veredelung theilhaftig zu machen oder überlässt sie ihrem Schicksal— in einer Spanne Zeit verschwinden sie ganz u. spätere Zoologen kennen sie nur vom Hörensagen.

Beweise für die Wahrheit Ihrer ruhmeswürdigen Lehre—wie oben mitgetheilter lassen sich zu Tausenden aufzahlen. Wer, der sich eines gesunden Verstandes rühmt, könnte dagegen sprechen?

Wenn ich schliesslich die Bitte auszusprechen wage, dass Sie eines armen Geistesverwandten Lernlust durch Gratis uberlassung eines Exemplars Ihrer epochemachenden Werke “Ueber die Entstehung der Arten” oder “die Abstammung des Menschen” fördern möchten, hoffe ich Sie werden mir dieselbe, sowie die abermalige Belästigung mit einem Briefe verzeihen und mich eines gütigen Bescheides werth halten.

Ew. Wohlgeboren | ergebenster | Alfred Moschkau, Phil. Dr.

Pro.

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
The month is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Alfred Moschkau, 10 November 1873. Moschkau evidently wrote ‘November’ in error.
CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter from Alfred Moschkau, 10 November 1873.
Haeckel 1868b.
The Harz mountains in northern Germany extend between the Elbe and Leine rivers for about sixty miles (Columbia gazetteer of the world). The Harz mountain roller canary is a variety of Serinus canaria domesticus, bred in the upper Harz mountains. Moschkau evidently believed that wild canaries were found in the Harz mountains, but canaries are only found in the wild in the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. Moschkau may have observed a close relative, the European serin (Serinus serinus), which is a summer migrant in Germany. CD had discussed variation in domestic canary birds in Variation 1: 295.

Bibliography

Columbia gazetteer of the world: The Columbia gazetteer of the world. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.

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

Translation

From Alfred Moschkau1   2 [December] 18732

Nied. Oderwitz,

2. Nov. 1873.

Most respected master!

Highly honoured Sir!

Many thanks for your kind letter and for your advice that I should after all not venture to send you my notes on the Transmutation theory3— giving eggs to a hen—especially as I found everything expressed much better in Häckel’s Schöpfungsgeschichte.4

But I must tell you one thing. It has to do with the breeding of Canary birds in the Harz; this bird hardly exists any more in its original form, indeed I believe that the present day form is no longer adapted to life in the wild— they are only successful variants; the song of the wild (living in the open—undomesticated) canary birds can not compare any more with that of the true Harz variety, from which a progressive change in the vocal organs over the course of time can surely be inferred. The feathers are also much softer, and more woolly in the domesticated variety than in the wild birds, which are becoming rare in Germany.5

Here too the “struggle for existence” is clearly recognisable. Softly melodious warblers are bred, their numbers increase prolifically, one may attempt to improve the wild ones or leave them to their fate— in time they will disappear altogether and future zoologists will only know them from hearsay.

Proofs of the truth of your praiseworthy theory—as that cited above, can be counted in their thousands. How could anyone claiming to be of sound mind oppose it?

If I venture, in closing, to ask you to foster a poor kindred spirit’s thirst for knowledge by sending me a free copy of your epoch-making works “On the origin of species” or “The Descent of Man”, I hope you will forgive me for this as well as for bothering you again with a letter, and I hope that you will regard me worthy of a favourable reply.

Yours | most devoted | Alfred Moschkau | Phil. Dr.

Pro.

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original German, see pp. 527–8.
The month is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Alfred Moschkau, 10 November 1873. Moschkau evidently wrote ‘November’ in error.
CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter from Alfred Moschkau, 10 November 1873.
Haeckel 1868b.
The Harz mountains in northern Germany extend between the Elbe and Leine rivers for about sixty miles (Columbia gazetteer of the world). The Harz mountain roller canary is a variety of Serinus canaria domesticus, bred in the upper Harz mountains. Moschkau evidently believed that wild canaries were found in the Harz mountains, but canaries are only found in the wild in the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. Moschkau may have observed a close relative, the European serin (Serinus serinus), which is a summer migrant in Germany. CD had discussed variation in domestic canary birds in Variation 1: 295.

Bibliography

Columbia gazetteer of the world: The Columbia gazetteer of the world. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.

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

Summary

Discusses variation and selection in Harz canaries.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-9125
From
Otto Carl Alfred (Alfred) Moschkau
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Niederoderwitz (Zittau)
Source of text
DAR 171: 249
Physical description
2pp (German)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9125,” accessed on 17 September 2021, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-9125.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21

letter