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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Innes   9 January [1858–9]1


Jan 9th.

Dear Darwin,

Thanks for your note I will try to go to Bromley on the 25th. to put Mrs. Lettington in cash.2 I met Mr. Lubbock today and mentioned our school question that he might think of it.3 I have no doubt myself. We can talk it over some day—

I met with a record of pigeon flying yesterday which possibly you may not have—

10th. July 1830. 100 pigeons from Antwerp were flown in London. 18 prizes to be given. They started at 8.45 AM strong breeze from W.S.W.

Arrived at Antwerp 1st. in 512 hours 2nd. 30 seconds later. Six five minutes after the winner, and all 18 prizes gained within 814 hours. 26 birds reached home within 20 hours. No record of the rest.4

Faithfully Yours | John Innes

CD annotations

crossed pencil
Top of first page : ‘18’5 brown crayon
Bottom of last page, pencil: ‘London to Antwerp 195 British miles 12 hour 11 195 17.72 in 12 hour 11 2 85 35.44 of mile in hour6 77 80 17 30’ ‘Merrie England by Lord. W. Lennox 1858 p. 185.—’ ink


The date is inferred from CD’s interest in ascertaining the distances that birds might be able to fly. The point was relevant to his work on the distribution of plant seeds and animal ova and larvae by means of birds, a topic he investigated from the autumn of 1857 to 1859. The publication date of Lennox 1858 (see n. 4, below) indicates that the letter was written some time after 1857.
Amy Lettington was the draper in Down village (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1859). CD was the treasurer of the Down Coal and Clothing Club, a society funded by charitable subscriptions from local gentry. The money thus acquired was used to buy coal and clothing for villagers. From an entry in the club subscription book (Down House MS) for the year 1844, it appears that it was possible for villagers to buy clothing on account at Mrs Lettington’s shop and that she was subsequently reimbursed by CD, as treasurer. John Innes, the perpetual curate of Down, had previously been the treasurer of the club (Correspondence vol. 4, letter to John Innes, [8 May 1848]). He retained a close interest in its affairs (see J. R. Moore 1985, pp. 468–6).
John Lubbock. Innes and CD had been involved with plans to set up a national school in Down funded by John William Lubbock, John Lubbock’s father (see Correspondence vol. 5, letters to J. W. Lubbock, 6 September [1853] and 11 October [1853]). The school was established in 1853.
A note made by CD (see CD annotations) indicates that Innes’s information was taken from Lennox 1858, p. 185. The book was published early in December 1857 (Publishers’ Circular, 15 December 1857, p. 580).
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the means of dispersal of plants and animals.
CD’s estimate that birds could fly at 35 miles per hour was included in Origin, p. 361.


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

Lennox, William Pitt. 1858. Merrie England, its sports and pastimes. London.

Moore, James Richard. 1985. Darwin of Down: the evolutionist as squarson-naturalist. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Sends record of pigeon flight from London to Antwerp. [Lord W. Lennox, Merrie England (1857), p. 185.]

Letter details

Letter no.
John Brodie Innes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.2: 242
Physical description
2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13818,” accessed on 5 March 2021,

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