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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Bernhard Tegetmeier   31 August [1855]

Down Farnborough Kent

Aug. 31st.

Dear Sir

I have been thinking over your offer of helping me to the dead bodies of some of the good birds of Poultry.—1 Really considering how complete a stranger I am to you, I think it one of the most goodnatured offers ever made to me.—2 I have hardly the means to keep all the kinds of poultry, & to buy first-rate birds, merely to make skeletons of them, I should think too great an outlay. Therefore if you can help me even to a few it would be a very great assistance.

I have thought it would be best to enclose a list, but pray do not for a minute suppose that I am so unreasonable as to imagine that you can take the trouble to supply me with nearly all; but even a few would be of great service to me. Forgive me for adding that I hope that you will be so good as to remember whatever expence you may be put to for carriage, porterage, booking, baskets &c, & allow me to repay you. The trouble is very much more than I could have expected you to put yourself to, & I should be ashamed of myself if in addition, you were put even to a trifling expence. I do not think I shall be in London very soon, but when I am I will propose to call for an hour if you should chance to be disengaged.—

I am sure I have cause to offer many apologies, & beg to remain Dear Sir | Your’s truly obliged | Ch. Darwin

I published some years since a Natural History Journal of my Travels,3 which has been liked by some naturalists: if you should feel the least interest in seeing it, I shd. be proud to present you with a copy.—


This is the first letter of a correspondence that lasted until 1881. Tegetmeier was a leading authority on poultry, and editor of The Field, the Farm, the Garden, the Country Gentleman’s Newspaper.
Tegetmeier late in life recalled that he had first met CD at an exhibition of the Philoperisteron Society, of which Tegetmeier was secretary, held in the Freemasons’ Tavern, London (E. W. Richardson 1916: 101–2): At one of these exhibitions I heard a voice which said, ‘Oh, here’s Tegetmeier; he will tell you all about these birds better than I can.’ I turned round, and saw [William] Yarrell with a stranger, whom he introduced as Mr. Darwin … Darwin was at that time accumulating evidence for his large work on the Variation of Animals. He was surprised and gratified when he found that so humble and obscure an individual as myself had been working at the same subject for some years, and had collected and prepared with his own hands a large number of skulls and anatomical specimens bearing on the subject. It is not certain that CD actually attended the Philoperisteron’s July 1855 exhibition. It is more likely that he first met Tegetmeier at the Anerley poultry show, held 28–30 August 1855, which CD had planned to attend (letter to W. D. Fox, 31 July [1855]), and mentioned in the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, [2 December 1855]. His attendance at Anerley is also suggested by an entry in his Account book (Down House MS) on 30 August 1855 recording the purchase of four breeds of pigeons.


Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Richardson, Edmund William. 1916. A veteran naturalist; being the life and work of W. B. Tegetmeier. London: Witherby & Co.


Thanks for WBT’s offer to supply carcasses of good poultry breeds. Encloses list [missing] of birds in which he is interested.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1751,” accessed on 19 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5