Congratulations on birth of THH's daughter [Jessie].
On aboriginal dun colour of horses.
Examples of inaccuracies and perpetuation of errors [on hybrids] by "compilers, of which I am one".
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Huxley
I congratulate you on birth of daughter, but I hope I shall not very often have to congratulate you; for it may be truly said of Babies, “that enough is as good as a feast”.—
Thank you much for taking trouble of informing me of your two facts. But it so happened that I had heard of them. All Duns I believe are Ponies or small horses, & I do not believe there is dun Cart-Horse or Arabians: nevertheless I vehe-mently suspect that the aboriginal colour of the wild parent of our horses was Dun with stripe down back.—
The explanation of Hellenius' case is, I believe, as follows—he
crossed sheep with Sardinian Roe. In Sardinia the Mouflon, or supposed
parent of our sheep is called a Roe. Such perfect
fertility of hybrids from such very distinct genera inter se, would require the most
astounding amount of evidence.— The inaccuracy of the blessed gang (of which I
am one) of compilers passes all bounds: Monsters have frequently been described
as hybrids without a tittle of evidence.— I must give one other case to show
how we jolly fellows work— A Belgian Baron (I forget name this moment) crossed
two distinct geese & got seven hybrids, which he proved subsequently to
be quite sterile; well compiler the first, Chevreuel, says that the hybrids were
propagated for seven generations inter se. Compiler
I missed you at the Club for a scientific jaw, though I had very pleasant evening, luckily sitting by Hooker.— I shall be very curious to hear what you think of Agassiz's Contributions; not that I have yet begun to read it.
Adios | Yours Ever | C. Darwin
- f1 2224.f1Dated by the reference to the birth of Huxley's daughter (see n. 2, below).
- f2 2224.f2Jessie Oriana Huxley was born in February 1858 (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 157).
- f3 2224.f3CD later discovered that there were full-sized dun horses as well as the more usual ponies (Variation 1: 60).
- f4 2224.f4Huxley had evidently sent CD an account of hybrid crosses taken from Hellenius 1801. In this paper, Carl Nicolas Hellenius stated that he had crossed a common ram with a female deer and that the hybrid offspring were fertile. But, as stated in the letter, CD believed that Hellenius had confused the Sardinian word ‘roe’ (meaning mouflon) with the common English name for roe-deer (Cervus capreolus). The case is mentioned in Natural selection, p. 426 n. 1.
- f5 2224.f5In Natural selection, pp. 426–7 n. 1, CD identified Baron de La Fresnaye as the owner of the hybrids and cited the works of Michel Eugène Chevreul (Chevreul 1846) and Samuel George Morton (Morton 1847).
- f6 2224.f6CD refers to the meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society on 18 February, which both he and Joseph Dalton Hooker attended (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 February 1858]).
- f7 2224.f7Agassiz 1857–62, the first volume of which Louis Agassiz had sent to CD. See letter to Louis Agassiz, 21 February .