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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edmund Saul Dixon1   [April–June 1849]2

–of domesticated Pigeons, and which appears peculiar to the Island: it will be easy to learn more about these. It seems contrary to the doctrine of chances that out of the many species of Pigeons in the World (hundreds, are there not?) one only, the Columba livia, should be capable of domestication; for the Collared Turtle seems to be exactly on the boundary of domesticability, which it is destined never really to enter. This doctrine of chances makes me anxious to give a trial to some of the Australian kinds; but the hobby is an expensive one to ride, especially if publication does not help to pay Menagerie expenses. I have some faith in the possibility of domesticating the Passenger Pigeon of N. America: if migratory Geese are to be kept at home, so may perhaps migratory Pigeons.— You see I have some grounds for a case of doubt respecting the derivation of the Fancy Pigeons, but if Publishers and their customers continue sullen, I must be content with fit audience, though few, in yourself and two or three other goodnatured persons. Pray excuse this long effusion, and do not think of troubling yourself to acknowledge it, contrary to any discipline of rest imposed by Dr Gully. I now really hope that your recovery may afford me the opportunity & privilege of making your personal acquaintance some time before the Winter arrives.— I fear I shall not be able to rear any hybrid Geese this season. All the eggs have hitherto proved barren. It is an undoubted fact, observed by others than myself, that Geese of the domestic species are much more agreeable to wild Ganders, than their Geese are to the Domestic Gander. He rarely notices strange females, except to quarrel with them, instead of making love to them. Hence one cause of my failure up to the present.

Again excuse my tediousness, and believe me, dear Sir, | to be very truly yours | E. S. Dixon Thanks for the introduction to India.

CD annotations

crossed pencil
‘Hybridity’added pencil
End of letter: ‘Ch IX’brown crayon


Dixon was rector of Intwood, Norfolk and author of a book on ornamental poultry (E. S. Dixon 1848). CD had read Dixon’s book by 25 December 1848 (DAR 119; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV).
Dated from the reference in the letter to CD being in the care of James Manby Gully. CD was at Gully’s hydropathic establishment in Malvern between 10 March and 30 June 1848, the only time he was there for his own health apart from the week 11–17 June 1849. The reference to Dixon’s attempts at rearing hybrid geese indicates that the date is unlikely to be earlier than May and could not be earlier than April.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dixon, Edmund Saul. 1848. Ornamental and domestic poultry: their history and management. London: Office of the “Gardeners’ Chronicle”.


On domestication of pigeons and hybrid geese.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edmund Saul (Eugene Sebastian Delamer) Dixon
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 84.1: 146
Physical description
2pp inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13801,” accessed on 14 August 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4