Asks WDF to observe at what age pigeons have tail-feathers sufficiently developed to be counted.
CD is hard at work on his notes for a book with all the facts "for & versus" the immutability of species.
Asks for a young chicken and a nestling common pigeon.
Down Farnborough Kent
My dear Fox
How long it is since we have had any communication & I really want to hear how
the world goes with you; but my immediate object is to ask you to observe a point for
me, & as I know how you are a very busy man with too much to do, I shall have a
good chance of your doing what I want, as it w
As you have a noah's ark, I do not doubt that you have pigeons; (how I wish by any chance they were fantails!) Now what I want to know is, at what age nestling pigeons have their tail feathers sufficiently developed to be counted. I do not think I ever even saw a young pigeon. I am hard at work on my notes, collating & comparing them, in order in some 2 or 3 years to write a book with all the facts & arguments, which I can collect, for & versus the immutability of species.— I want to get the young of our domestic breeds to see how young, & to what degree, the differences appear. I must either breed myself (which is no amusement, but a horrid bore to me) the pigeons or buy them young, & before I go to a seller whom I have heard of from Yarrell, I am really anxious to know something about their development not to expose my excessive ignorance, & therefore be excessively liable to be cheated & gulled— With respect to the one point of the tail feathers, it is, of course, in relation to the wonderful development of tail feathers in the adult fan-tail.
If you had any breed of Poultry pure, I w
With respect to ourselves, I have not much to say: we have just now a terribly noisy
house with the Hooping cough: but otherwise are all well. Far
the greatest fact, about myself is that I have at last quite done with the everlasting
Barnacles. At the end of the year we had two of our little Boys very ill with fever
& Bronchites & all sorts of ailments. Partly
for amusement & partly for change of air we went to London & took a
House for a month, but it turned out a great failure, for that dreadful frost just set
in when we went, & all our children got unwell & Emma & I had
cougsh, & colds, & rheumatism nearly all the time. We had put down first on our list (of things to do) to go & see
I do hope before very long you will be able to manage to pay us a visit: Time is slipping away, & we are getting oldish. Do tell us about yourself & all your large family.
I know you will help me, if you can, with information about the young pigeons: & anyhow do write before very long.
My dear Fox | Your sincere old friend | C. Darwin
Amongst all sorts of odds & ends, with which I am amusing myself, I am
comparing the seeds of the vars. of plants. I had formerly some wild cabbage seeds,
which I gave to some one. Was it to you? It is a thousand to one that it is
thrown away, if not I sh
- f1 1651.f1A reference to the number and variety of animals Fox kept at Delamere.
- f2 1651.f2CD had told Fox about his views on the transmutation of species in 1838 (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to W. D. Fox, [15 June 1838]).
- f3 1651.f3William Yarrell, a leading authority on British birds. The seller CD refers to was probably John Baily, poulterer and dealer in live birds, 113 Mount Street, Berkeley Square (Post Office London directory 1853). Beginning in 1855, CD's Account book (Down House MS) has many entries relating to payments to Baily for pigeons.
- f4 1651.f4See letter to J. D. Hooker, 11 [December 1854].
- f5 1651.f5CD's family Bible (Down House MS), in which the childrens' illnesses were recorded, indicates that all the children except William had ‘Hooping cough’ in March 1855.
- f6 1651.f6Francis and Leonard Darwin (see ‘Journal’; Correspondence vol 5, Appendix I).
- f7 1651.f7The Darwins stayed at 27 York Place, Baker Street, from 18 January to 15 February 1855. The Annual Register (1855), Chronicle, pp. 23–5, reported that a severe cold spell affected the country in January and February with the Thames in London ‘encumbered with large masses of frozen snow or ice’ that covered the river at low tide.