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Letter 4078

Blyth, Edward to Darwin, C. R.

7 Apr 1863

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    Has seen some curious hybrid ducks and geese of Bartlett's. Bartlett will do experiments suggested by CD when he has time.

Transcription

The High Beeches, | near Crawley, Sussex1

April 7/63—

My Dear Sir,

Here I am, quietly and comfortably ensconsed for some time to come, with an occasional run up to London,—quite close upon Tilgate forest, the chief scene of Mantell's Researches; and I find that my juvenile kinsfolk are in possession of Iguanodon teeth, & a fine Crocodilian bone, which I take to belong to the Teleosaurus. I have had no time, however, as yet for researches of any kind, & my only trip has been to Brighton Downs yesterday with my friends to see the Volunteer Review. Fortunately I was accompanied all day by Capt Hans Busk, who was the originator of the Volunteer movement, but who only attended yesterday as a spectator. Of course it was much like other sham-fights, & there was a vast crowd of spectators— To me it is of course a treat to recognise all my old friends in the birds, plants, &c, & already I really sometimes feel as if I had never left England, almost.

Bartlett told me that he would not trust your suggested experiments in other hands than his own, when he could find time to superintend them personally: otherwise they would be surely botched. He shewed me some very curious hybrids. The mixed breed of the Ruddy Shieldrake or common `Brahmini Goose' of India (Casarca rutila) with the European & Asiatic Shieldrake (Tadorna vulpanser) prove to be so like the Australian Casarca that the two are barely, if at all, distinguishable! They are in adjacent compartments, & I could not tell the one from the other! And yet there is also an Australian true Tadorna, & likewise I believe a Casarca peculiar to New Zealand,—also one that I know of only from S. Burm´a, my C. leucoptera— The curious fact remains that by crossing the Eur-asian Casarca rutila & Tadorna vulpanser, you produce the exact likeness of the Casarca proper to Australia! The way the Feruginous Pochard has also been bred back from the mixed progeny of a female Clangula vulgaris is also worthy of notice.

Yours ever sincerely, | E. Blyth

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 4078.f1
    High Beeches, Slaugham, Sussex, was the seat of Robert Loder (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862). Loder's relationship to Blyth has not been established.
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    f2 4078.f2
    Gideon Algernon Mantell was well known for the numerous fossils he had collected in Tilgate Forest, Sussex (Cleevely and Chapman 1992).
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    f3 4078.f3
    Iguanodon was a Cretaceous dinosaur from Tilgate Forest, first described by Mantell in 1825 (Mantell 1825); Teleosaurus was the name given by Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1825d) to the remains of a group of Jurassic crocodilian forms found in a limestone quarry in Normandy, France (see Buffetaut 1987, pp. 68--9, 80--3).
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    f4 4078.f4
    The Volunteer Force was raised in 1859 as part of a movement to train military volunteers for countering the perceived threat of invasion by the French (DNB, EB). Hans Busk was Loder's brother-in-law (Burke's peerage 1980).
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    f5 4078.f5
    Blyth had been appointed curator of the museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1841. He was forced to leave Calcutta for England at the end of 1862 as a consequence of ill health, arriving in March 1863 (see Blyth 1875, p. xii, and letter from Edward Blyth, 27 March 1863).
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    f6 4078.f6
    Abraham Dee Bartlett was superintendent of the Zoological Society's gardens in Regent's Park, London (Modern English biography). He conducted experiments and made observations for CD on rabbits, geese, peacocks and wild cats (see Variation 1: 109--11, 114--15, 288, 290; 2: 150; and Correspondence vols. 8, 9, and 10). See also Correspondence vol. 13, letter to [A. D. Bartlett], 24 August [1860--3].
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    f7 4078.f7
    CD discussed the chief domestic duck breeds, and their derivation from the common wild duck, in Variation 1: 277--87, but he did not mention the ducks or shelducks to which Blyth refers here. CD's interest in hybrid ducks had led him to keep some at Down House during the 1850s (see Correspondence vols. 5 and 6).
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