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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hermann Hoffmann1   17 April 1871

Giessen.

17. Apr. 71

Geehrtester Herr!

Das Interesse, welches mir die Lectüre Ihres wichtigen Buches “on the descent of man” eingeflösst hat, möge es entschuldigen, wenn ich einige Bemerkungen anfüge, die sich mir bei der Lectüre aufgedrängt haben, und welche vielleicht auch für Sie nicht ganz ohne Interesse sind.2

Ad I. 350 (Bugs).3 Betreffend Cimex (Lygaeus) apterus. Dieselbe lebt hier in Menge an einzelnen Lindenbaeumen, aber nur an dicken, alten, und nur an deren Fusse. Gerade an diesen Stellen kommen auch im Frühlinge zahlreiche Adventivsprosse zum Vorscheine, roth, fast carmin, welche auf dem dunkelgrauen Grunde der Rinde den Wanzen so ähnlich sind, dass ich dieselben öfters bei flüchtiger Betrachtung verwechselt habe.—4 Wenn es den Feinden dieser Wanze ebenso ergeht, wie mir (was ich für sehr denkbar halte), so liegt die Vermuthung nahe, dass diese Wanzen in ihrer anscheinend so auffallenden Farbe einen sehr wirksamen Schutz finden dürften.

Ad II. 26. bei dem Frosche habe ich in einem kleinen Sumpfe im botanischen Garten in Giessen zur Brunstzeit aeusserst heftige und tagelang fortgesetzte Kämpfe beobachtet, woran sich gleichzeitig eine grosse Anzahl von Individuen betheiligte. In einem Falle verlor dabei einer der Kämpfer das Leben, indem ihm der Leib aufgerissen wurde; doppelt auffallend bei dem schwachen Gebisse dieser Thiere.5

Ad II. 332. Ich hatte im letzten Winter (9. Januar 1871) Gelegenheit eine singende Maus (Mus musculus) zu hören, welche in einem Käfiche gehalten wurde, aber bald wieder entschlüpfte.6 Ich weiss nicht, ob es ein Männchen war. Eventuell aber wäre der Gesang gar nicht übel gewesen und hätte einem Weibchen wohl gefallen dürfen; jedenfalls hat es mir gefallen.7 Offenbar war er der Ausdruck einer nicht unbehaglichen Stimmung. Er bestand in dem gewöhnlichen Piepen der Maeuse, der Gesammteindruck aber war der eines ganz anmuthigen Zwitscherns, stark erinnernd an die Schwalbe (Hirundo rustica).8 Die Töne waren zart, kurz abgestossen, aber rasch auf einanderfolgend in einer langen Kette, steigend oder fallend, leise oder lauter; und das ging minuten-lang so fort.— Auch ein singendes Schwein habe ich einmal beobachtet; das Motiv schien Hunger zu sein.

Das Thier stand aufrecht in seinem Stalle, die Vorderbeine wider der Thüre, der Kopf der fensterartigen Luke hinaus nach dem Hofe gewandt. Das ging halbe Stunden lange so fort und wiederholte sich öfters.

Perfidie eines Hundes.9 Vor Jahrem hielt ich einen Pudel, für dessen Lager ein Stück Teppich auf dem Fussboden vor meinem Bette bestimmt war; das Schlafcabinet communicirte durch eine offene Thüre mit meinem Studirzimmer, in welchem sich ein Sopha befand. Ich bemerkte im tiefen Winter während einer regnerischen, schmutzigen Epoche, dass eine bestimte Ecke des Sopha-Sitzes stets am Morgen sehr schmutzig war, offenbar von Strassenkoth, was sich trotz täglicher Reinigung stets erneute. Nach Form und Grösse der beschmutzten Stelle fiel der Verdacht auf meinen Hund, der diesen behaglicheren Platz vorgezogen haben möchte. Allein auffallender Weise legte sich das Thier Abends, wenn ich zu Bette ging, ganz brav auf seinen Teppich nieder; und wenn ich, erweckt durch eine über meinem Bette befindliche Wecker-Uhr, am Morgen vom Bette aus das Licht auf meinem Nachttischchen anzündete, so lag mein treuer Caro richtig, anscheinend fest schlafend und in gewöhnlicher Weise in sich zusammengekrümmt, an seiner richtigen Stelle auf dem Teppich. Es fragte sich nun, ob noch,—oder wieder?— Eines Abends lag ich längere Zeit wachend, aber ruhig, im Bette, während ich sonst binnen wenigen Minuten einzuschlafen pflegte. Plötzlich hörte ich, dass Caro ganz leise aufstand, ebenso leise in das Studirzimmer schlich und mit einem Satze—Plump!—auf dem Sopha lag. Hierauf tiefe Stille.— Am nächsten Morgen 4 Uhr, also bei dunkler Nacht, rasselte wie immer der Wecker. Sofort raffte ich mich auf und setze mich aufrecht in das Bett, um zu belauschen, wie der Sünder wieder auf den Teppich zurückkäme. Das dauerte auch in der That nur einen Moment; alsbald hörte ich, wie Caro mit einem raschen Satz vom Sopha sprang; noch ein Moment, und er lag auf seinem Teppich. Als ich das Licht angezündet hatte, sah er aus, als habe er die ganze Nacht da geruht.— Bei Tage, in meiner Gegenwart, lag der Hund, der sonst wohlgezogen war, niemals auf dem Sopha.

Bei dieser Gelegenheit will ich Ihnen auch mittheilen, was aus dem Hahn mit Schwimmhaeuten geworden ist, von dessen Füssen ich am 13. Juni 1870 eine Zeichnung machte und Ihnen mittheilte. Derselbe wurde mir vollkommen erwachsen am 8. October 1870 wieder zugebracht, und die beiliegende Zeichnung ist an diesem Tage von mir gemacht worden.10

In aufrichtiger Hochachtung | Ihr | H. Hoffmann. Prof.

CD annotations

Verso of last page: ‘About a Bug like red buds of Lime-tree | & about Frogs fighting’ pencil

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix I.
Hoffman refers to Descent.
Ad: regarding (Latin). Hoffman refers to the paragraph concerning secondary sexual characteristics in Hemiptera (true bugs) in Descent 1: 349–50.
Cimex apterus or Lygaeus apterus is now Pyrrhocoris apterus, the fire-bug. CD cited Hoffman for these observations in Descent 2d ed., p. 281, although CD described the insects as being pink and green.
In discussing the mating habits of frogs, CD stated, ‘though cold-blooded, their passions are strong. Dr. Günther informs me that he has several times found an unfortunate female toad dead and smothered from having been so closely embraced by three or four males’ (Descent 2: 26).
Mus musculus is the house mouse.
The male house mouse sings when it encounters female mice or their pheromones (Holy and Guo 2005).
Hirundo rustica is the barn swallow.
CD discussed conscience in dogs in Descent 1: 78.
Hoffmann sent a description and sketches of the feet of a fowl with webbed toes with his letter of 23 June 1870 (Correspondence vol. 18). The sketches of 8 October 1870 were published in Correspondence vol. 18, where they were erroneously assumed to be enclosures to a missing letter from Hermann Hoffmann of that date. No letter from 13 July 1870 has been found.

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Translation

From Hermann Hoffmann1   17 April 1871

Giessen.

17. Apr. 71

Dear Sir!

The interest with which I have been inspired by your important book on the descent of man may serve as an excuse for communicating to you a number of observations, which crowded into my mind while reading your book and which perhaps may not be entirely without interest for you.2

Ad I, 350 (on bugs).3 As concerns Cimex (Lygaeus) apterus, which over here lives in great numbers on some lime trees, but only thick, old ones, and exclusively at the base of the tree. This is also the very spot where numerous adventitious shoots appear in spring; being red, almost crimson, against the dark grey background of the bark these buds are so similar to the bug that I have at a cursory glance frequently mistaken one for the other.4 If the natural enemies of the bug have the same experience (and I find this very conceivable), it can be assumed that the bugs derive a highly effective protection from their apparently so conspicuous colour.

Ad II 26. As concerns frogs, in a little swamp in the botanical garden at Giessen, during mating season, I have observed extremely violent fights that continued for days on end and in which a large number of individual animals participated simultaneously. On one occasion, one of the combatants lost his life in the course of this event, for his belly was ripped open, which is doubly striking, considering how weak the teeth of these animals are.5

Ad II 332. Last winter, on 9 January 1871, I had the opportunity to listen to a singing mouse (Mus musculus), which was kept in a cage but soon escaped again.6 I am not sure if it was a male. If that were the case, the singing was not half bad and might well have pleased a female; in any case, I liked it.7 It was quite obviously the expression of a not unpleasant mood. It consisted of the usual squeaks of mice, but the overall impression was that of a quite comely chirping, strongly reminiscent of the swallow (Hirundo rustica).8 The notes were mellow, uttered in brief staccato, but followed one another quickly in a long series, rising or falling, softly or louder; and this continued for a number of minutes.— Once I also observed a singing pig, and the motive appeared to be hunger.

The animal was standing upright in its stall, its front legs against the door, its head turned towards the window-like hatch, which opened onto the yard. The singing continued over half an hour and was frequently repeated.

Perfidy of a dog.9 Years ago I had a poodle, who was supposed to sleep on a piece of carpet on the floor in front of my bed. Through an open doorway, the bedroom was connected with my study, in which there was a sofa. In the dead of winter, during the rainy, slushy period, I noticed that a particular corner of the seat of the sofa was very soiled every morning, obviously with dirt from the street, and though the sofa was cleaned every day, the dirt kept reappearing. From the shape and size of the spot, the dog seemed a likely suspect, since he might prefer this more comfortable place. Oddly enough, however, when I went to bed in the evening, the animal lay down, all virtue, on its designated carpet, and every morning, when I was woken up by an alarm clock above my bed, and lit the lamp on my bedside table, my devoted Caro was lying where he ought, apparently sound asleep, and curled up as was commonly his habit, in his correct place on the carpet. The only question was, whether he was there still,—or again?— One evening I was lying in bed awake but quiet, while usually I fall asleep within the space of minutes. Suddenly I heard Caro get up noiselessly, creep, equally noiselessly, to the study, and with one leap—plump!—he was lying on the sofa. Thereupon deep silence.— The next morning at four o’clock, that is, in the darkness of the night, my alarm rang as always. Immediately I roused myself to sit up in bed, in order to overhear the sinner return to his carpet. Indeed, this took just a moment; soon I heard Caro swiftly jump off the sofa, and a moment later he lay on his carpet. By the time I had lit the lamp he looked as though he had been resting there all night.— During the day, in my presence, the dog, which was otherwise well-mannered, never lay on the sofa.

Let me also take this opportunity to tell you what has become of the cock with webbing, of whose feet I made a drawing on 13 July 1870 and whom I told you about. On 8 October 1870 the same cock, now fully grown, was brought to me again, and I made the enclosed drawing on the same day.10

With my sincere respect | Yours | H. Hoffmann, professor.

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original German, see pp. QQQQ.
Hoffman refers to Descent.
Ad: regarding (Latin). Hoffman refers to the paragraph concerning secondary sexual characteristics in Hemiptera (true bugs) in Descent 1: 349–50.
Cimex apterus or Lygaeus apterus is now Pyrrhocoris apterus, the fire-bug. CD cited Hoffman for these observations in Descent 2d ed., p. 281, although CD described the insects as being pink and green.
In discussing the mating habits of frogs, CD stated, ‘though cold-blooded, their passions are strong. Dr. Günther informs me that he has several times found an unfortunate female toad dead and smothered from having been so closely embraced by three or four males’ (Descent 2: 26).
Mus musculus is the house mouse.
The male house mouse sings when it encounters female mice or their pheromones (Holy and Guo 2005).
Hirundo rustica is the barn swallow.
CD discussed conscience in dogs in Descent 1: 78.
Hoffmann sent a description and sketches of the feet of a fowl with webbed toes with his letter of 23 June 1870 (Correspondence vol. 18). The sketches of 8 October 1870 were published in Correspondence vol. 18, where they were erroneously assumed to be enclosures to a missing letter from Hermann Hoffmann of that date. No letter from 13 July 1870 has been found.

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Summary

Comments on Descent.

Reports a case of protective coloration of bugs on Tilia

and observations on frogs fighting [see Descent, 2d ed., pp. 281, 350].

Encloses drawings of chicken feet.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-7695
From
Karl Heinrich Hermann (Hermann) Hoffmann
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Giessen
Source of text
DAR 166: 229
Physical description
3pp (German) † encl 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7695,” accessed on 15 November 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-7695.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19

letter