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Letter 735A

Darwin, C. R. to Wicksted, Charles

13 Feb [1844?]

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    Inquires about the habits of a litter of foxhounds whose sire was particularly good at recovering the scent in paths or roads.


Feb. 13th

My dear Sir

I trust to your kindness in allowing me to trouble you with a question on a point, communicated to me by Mr Tollet at Betley, & which interests me greatly. Mr Tollet told me that the late Mr Botfield had a Harrier remarkably good for recovering the scent in paths or roads, & that you sent a bitch to this dog, & that he believed that one of the puppies inherited this good quality. If you would be so kind as to take the trouble to give me a few more particulars, I should be greatly obliged: I do not ask out of quite idle curiosity, as I have for several years been collecting facts on the variation of plants & animals, & all cases of inheritable qualities of body & mind come into this subject. Is the faculty of recovering scent in roads to the extent of Mr Botfield's dog very unusual? did it appear as conspicuously in the puppy as in the parent? did only one puppy inherit it? Have you ever bred from this puppy?.— I have seen it stated that young fox-hounds naturally evince different propensities or qualities, so that one is good to find his fox, another to make casts, one is apt to run stragging & another compact &c &c, & that these qualities often reappear in the offspring. As no one, I suppose, has had better opportunities of judging for yourself, if you do not much dislike the trouble of writing, would you be so very kind as to tell me, whether you observed any such & what cases.

I feel that I have much cause to apologise for thus troubling you, I can rely only on your kindness to excuse me, and I beg to remain

Yours very faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin
Down Bromley Kent

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    f1 735a.f1
    The ‘Down Bromley Kent’ address indicates date ranges of 1843–6 or 1854 or later. George Tollet, referred to in the letter, died in 1855 so the date cannot be later than that, and the unperforated postage stamp on the cover suggests the earlier period. The precise date is conjectured from the details in the letter relating to the habits of foxhounds which closely match details given by CD in his essay of 1844 (Foundations, p. 114). CD was working on his species essay in February 1844 (see ‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 3, Appendix II).
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    f2 735a.f2
    George Tollet of Betley Hall was the father of Charles Wicksted and a friend of the Wedgwood family.
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    f3 735a.f3
    Probably Thomas Botfield, who died on 17 January 1843.
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