Is collecting facts for Variation; would be grateful for skins of local [Cape of Good Hope] breeds of pigeons, ducks, and poultry.
Down Bromley Kent
I have read your several communications on the Nat. History of Ceylon with very much interest; & I have thought that the love & zeal shown by you for science, would make you forgive the liberty I take in addressing you; & that perhaps you could give me a little information if your official duties afford you any quite idle time.—
I have during many years been collecting all the facts & reasoning which I could, in regard to the variation & origin of species, intending to give, as far as lies in my power, the many difficulties surrounding the subject on all sides. One chief line of investigation naturally is concerned with the amount of variation of all our domestic animals.
For various reasons, I have determined to work especially on pigeons, poultry, ducks & rabbits; though at the same time I am most grateful for any facts on all our other domesticated quadrupeds & birds. I have been buying all the races of Pigeons, in order to watch them living & make skeletons of them when dead.— I find from various old works, that the Dutch formerly (as now) were great Fanciers, & it has occurred to me that breeds may in former times have been carried to the Cape of Good Hope & may still be retained there; & that these might possibly belong to breeds now lost in Europe, or rare, or even slightly modified.—
Now would you confer the very great favour on me to make enquiries for me on
this head; & I have thought that you might employ any bird-skinner (if such
exist) at my expence, to look out for & skin old examples dying a
natural death of any breed whatever leaving in the bones of legs & wings, which
there is any reason whatever to suppose has long been bred at the Cape. I
Pray believe me, dear Sir, with many apologies, Yours faithfully | Charles Darwin
Can you tell me whether there are any Pigeon Fanciers in Ceylon, as perhaps I could get skins made for me there.—
I have thought of writing to M
- f1 1794.f1Layard had served as a civil servant in Ceylon from 1849 until 1853, during which time he had devoted himself to studying the entomology, ornithology, and conchology of the island. He had published several articles in the Annals of Natural History on various aspects of the natural history of Ceylon (E. L. Layard 1851, 1852–3, 1853–4). After returning to England for reasons of health, he had been appointed to the colonial office in Capetown, South Africa, where he also served as the first curator of a museum of natural history. CD wrote to him at the suggestion of Edward Blyth (letter from Edward Blyth, 22–3 August 1855). See also CD's memorandum, [December 1855].
- f2 1794.f2Charles John Andersson was a Swedish-born naturalist and collector in South Africa.
- f3 1794.f3George Henry Kendrick Thwaites, superintendent of the botanical gardens at Peradeniya, Ceylon, became an important source of information on Ceylon for both Natural selection and Variation. See the letter to George Henry Kendrick Thwaites, 10 December 1855.
- f4 1794.f4Layard's study of the ornithology of South Africa culminated in the publication of The birds of South Africa in 1867.
- f5 1794.f5William Henry Benson had described Layard's collection of land shells and published a paper on the new species contained in it (Benson 1853). See letter from W. H. Benson, 5 December 1855.
- f6 1794.f6Layard probably sent CD's letter to George Grey, then governor of the Cape Colony, to obtain his assistance in providing the information CD sought.