From W. D. Fox 16 August [1860?]1
Deepdene | Hythe | Southampton
My dear Darwin
In answer to your enquiry, I believe I might truly state—not one dozen, but dozens of white cats came under my observation.2 The first I saw was a half bred Persian at Ryde.3 I had a kitten of hers, from whom I had a great number, never having less than six at a time for years. In every case, if pure white & with blue eyes, they were stone deaf. I used to show this by making all sorts of the loudest noises close to them, which they never in the least perceived.
I have remarked them in various other places—once at the large Inn at Chichester (which I think was a male)—2 Norwegian Cats whose owner I amazed (as I have done several others) by remarking “that it was a pity such fine cats should be deaf”. These were females.
Of course the greater part of those we bred & kept were females, but I also had males, as I kept my breed pure for many years. I am certain the females were deaf, & I have no doubt about the males being so also, as I must have observed them if they had not been.
I forget where I wrote several letters on the subject of these blue eyed cats—it is now 20 to 30 years since—but they elicited exactly similar facts.
I bred several that had only one eye blue; and we were quite convinced that in those cases, they were deaf only on the blue side. All my elder children remember “Lily” our first cat—as perfectly deaf & blue eyed—& she certainly brought litters of kittens for many years—
So that the sex is undeniable, tho’ I once had a Male Tortoishell (or at least so reputed) who had a family—to the great delight of my children.
Ever yours W D Fox
After writing the above I asked my wife & cubs if they remembered the white cats. “Lily” was too far back, but “Glaucops” was well remembered for her azure eyes, and kittens innumerable.
Fanny,4 who is just returned from Bradwell nr Gt Yarmouth—added “that there is a cat there perfectly white, but with the usual green eyes, that is deaf—like the blueeyed ones.” She remarked this particularly, as opposed to the blue eyed theory.
“But at Caister Rectory close by Mr Steward5 has a magnificent blue eyed cat which is quite deaf.”
I shall probably see both these cats before long, and shall very likely find a Colony about there.
The Caister Cat—being described as very fine, may probably be a male.
Your Son William6 was kind enough to call here on Friday, and most favorably impressed us all.
Discusses deafness in white cats. Every blue-eyed, white cat WDF has known has been deaf.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6319,” accessed on 28 April 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-6319
Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18 (Supplement)