Hopes GHKT will publish on variations in plant species at different elevations. Asks about variations among plants on heights of Ceylon.
Promises to publish on the species question.
Asks for pigeons' skins from India or Ceylon, and for ducks' skeletons. Mentions help promised by E. F. Kelaart.
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Sir
Though I have nothing very particular to say I must thank you cordially for the
extremely kind manner with which you have received my letter.
I remember at Oxford that you had attended to many of the points on which I was then
& am now so much interested. I hope that you will
publish some of the facts on variation to which you allude: I
As you have received my letter in so very friendly a spirit, I will mention one or two other points on which I am much interested; viz in regard to the distribution of alpine plants; have you collected at the greater heights in Ceylon, & is there anything new in relation to the vegetation at these heights in comparison with the Himmalaya, Neilgherries or other mountains? Again have you observed whether the introduced & perfectly naturalised plants tend to vary much in Ceylon? The courrse of my work makes me more & more sceptical on the eternal immutability of species; yet the difficulties on the other theory of common descent seem to me frightfully great. In my work, which I shall not publish for 2 or 3 or perhaps more years; it is my intention to give, as far as I can & that will be very imperfectly, all the arguments & facts on both sides of the case, stating which side seems to me to preponderate.—
You cannot possibly render me more material assistance than by getting me any skins of
Indian or Ceylon (or any breed except English) breeds of Pigeons; for I have concluded it would be better to work carefully at the varieties of a
few animals, than compile brief notices on all our domestic animals. I have now all
English breeds of Pigeons alive, & am carefully observing them, making skeletons
& crossing them. There are some remarkable Tumblers in India.— Have you any domestic Ducks? or Rabbits These I mean to work at,
as well as at Poultry. Any skeleton of Ducks
When I began, I meant merely to thank you; but when a beggar once begins to beg he never knows when to stop!
Pray accept my very cordial thanks & good wishes & believe me, My dear Sir | Your's very sincerely | Ch. Darwin.
- f1 1837.f1See Correspondence vol. 5, letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 10 December 1855. Thwaites's reply has not been found.
- f2 1837.f2CD had attended the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford in 1847 at which Thwaites read a paper announcing his discovery of conjugation in the Diatomaceae (Thwaites 1847).
- f3 1837.f3Probably J. D. Hooker 1852, pp. 69–71. CD quoted Thwaites's observations on the cultivation of varieties from different elevations in Natural selection, p. 286: ‘Mr. Thwaites, the curator of the Botanic Garden at Ceylon, … writes to me, that he finds “that individuals of the same species are acclimatised to different elevations,—being more & more impatient of cultivation at any station, according as they have been transported to it, from stations of greater & greater altitude.” ’ See also Correspondence vol. 7, letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 7 February .
- f4 1837.f4Thwaites's name is not among those in Natural selection or Variation who provided CD with specimens of birds or rabbits from Ceylon.
- f5 1837.f5See letter to Walter Elliot, 23 January 1856.
- f6 1837.f6Edward Frederick Kelaart is described in Variation 1: 259, where his name is spelled ‘Kellaert’, as one who had ‘closely studied the birds of Ceylon’ and is cited on the native fowl of that island (Variation 1: 234).
- f7 1837.f7That CD wrote more than he intended is indicated by the fact that the last page was written on the verso of the first. To clarify the order, he headed it ‘Last Page’.