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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. W. Wood   16 June 1870

221 Stanhope Street, | Hampstead Road N.W.

June 16th 1870.

Dear Sir,

I beg to thank you for your very kind and appreciative letter, & with regard to your query about the difference in the shading of the spots of the Argus being an optical illusion, I can assure you that is not the case, the markings being quite fixed & the only illusion is that produced by nature in making flat surfaces appear convex.1 I have a feather taken from close to the bird’s body & also one of those farthest from it; in the former the spots are thus


& in the latter=


Mr Tegetmeier of “the Field” will get the block stereotyped for you without charge & has kindly promised that it shall be ready soon. I told him of your wish that the Gold pheasant’s feathers should be cut out & am sorry you cannot find room for them, if in reconsidering the matter you should alter your mind please let me know at once.2 In “the Student” you will find a sketch of this beautiful bird with the collar expanded.3 The only condition Mr Tegetmeier mentioned was that the cut should be alluded to as having been taken from “the Field”4

I remain, | Dear Sir, | Yours faithfully, | T. W. Wood.

Charles Darwin Esq. F.R.S. &c— &c—


Wood refers to the ocellated spots on the plumage of the argus pheasant; see letter from T. W. Wood, 14 June 1870. The letter to which this is a reply has not been found.
Wood’s letter to the Field, 28 May 1870, p. 457, included diagrams of feathers; two of them were of collar feathers of the gold pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus). Wood was interested in these feathers because the double stripe on each feather had the effect of maintaining the appearance of continuous stripes on the plumage even when the feathers were fluffed up and separated.
Wood 1870, second plate, fig. h.
CD did not use Wood’s diagrams from the Field in Descent.


Wood, Thomas W. 1870. The courtship of birds. Student and Intellectual Observer 5 (1870–1): 113–25.


Argus pheasant.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas William Wood
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Hampstead Rd
Source of text
DAR 181: 148
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7235,” accessed on 14 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18