skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. A. Gould   6 April [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

April 6th.

My dear Sir

I write one line to return you my very sincere thanks for the kind manner in which you have so effectually & completely procured me an answer from the highest authority on the habit of your Cuckoo.2 If you have any communication with Dr Brewer, I hope that you will present him my best thanks. How Mr Yarrell could have erred so much I cannot conceive; & I am heartily glad I did not trust to his authority.3

I, also, regretted very sincerely that I had not the pleasure of seeing you when in England; but I was at that time quite incapable of any exertion, & this is indeed almost my chronic state.

I cannot help much regretting to hear that your time is so much taken up that you have but little leisure for natural History. An account of the Japan shells, would, I shd think, be very interesting under a geographical point of view, to which you have so much attended.4

With my sincere thanks for your constant kindness to me, pray believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


This letter and the letter from Thomas Mayo Brewer to Augustus Addison Gould, to which it refers, are dated on the assumption that CD asked for the information about cuckoos while he was composing chapter 10, on the ‘Mental powers and the instincts of animals’, which he completed on9 March 1858 (‘Journal’; Appendix II). Brewer’s letter was marked ‘Ch. 10’ by CD (see letter from T. M. Brewer to A. A. Gould, [March 1858]) and put with his other notes on instincts. CD incorporated Brewer’s information into Origin, p. 217, when he came to write up this material in November 1858 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
The letter from T. M. Brewer to A. A. Gould, [March 1858], which Gould sent to CD.
In Natural Selection, pp. 506–7, CD stated that Cuculus americanussometimes … lays its eggs in other birds nests’, citing Yarrell 1839–43, 2: 190, as his source. In Origin, p. 217, CD reported: ‘I hear on the high authority of Dr. Brewer, that this is a mistake.’ See letter from T. M. Brewer to A. A. Gould, [March 1858].
Gould described the Mollusca and shells collected during the United States Exploring Expedition and was the author of many other conchological papers.


Thanks AAG for procuring an authoritative answer from T. M. Brewer on the habits of the [American] cuckoo. Surprised William Yarrell erred so much.

Wishes AAG had time to give an account of Japanese shells, which would be interesting from the geographical point of view.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Augustus Addison Gould
Sent from
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2448,” accessed on 22 June 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7