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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Blyth   [1–8 October 1855]1

Notes on Lyell, Vol. 2, Edit. 1832.2

The Lamarckian theory may be passed by. But at p. 15, I may remark that the Orang-utans, which have no ligamentum teres to bring the head of the thigh-bone to its socket (in which they differ from all other Quadrumana), are thereby utterly incapacitated from standing up on their lower extremities. The Hylobates hoolock is, on the ground, a true biped, never resting its weight on the hands, but holding the arms up over its head when walking. The H. lar, on the contrary, brings the tips of its fingers to the ground, to regulate its balance somewhat; but both species make use of any object they may encounter to help themselves forward by means of the hands. When at full speed in the forest, these animals swing along by means of the hands only, making sometimes 2 or 3 successive springs with the same hand; as you may have seen in the instance of the fine old female H. agilis which was formerly exhibited at the Egyptian Hall.—3

P. 19. Distinctness of Genera; i.e. of natural groups of various degrees of comprehensiveness. I fully believe in this; & am prepared to argue the matter in detail.4 In other words, I do not believe in connecting links from one group to another. Take the Parrots for instance: here we have the subordinate groups of Cockatoos, Lories, &c. &c; but in what instance does a Parrot tend to grade towards any other type of the bird class. Take the diurnal & nocturnal birds of prey! In what instance does the skeleton or the alimentary canal tend to grade from one subtype to the other? Man constitutes a distinct genus; the Chimpanzees another; the Orangs a third; & the Gibbons a fourth: & all of these have characters in common (man not excluded) which are found in no other Quadrumana, the appendix vermiform to the cæcum for instance: then we have two more distinct series of Old World Quadrumana,—those with simple stomach, &c, as the Baboons, Guenons, &c,—& those with sacculated stomach, &c, as Presbytis (not Semnopithecus) & Colobus. There is no intergrading; any more than between the Catarrhyni & Platyrhyni, one essential of all the last being the possession of a third false molar. Then come the Lemurs, against distinct: & so on. It is only very superficially that any may seem to intergrade; & all such apparent cases (in my opinion) will admit of satisfactory explanation without resorting to the theory of links. Observe the distinctness of each Order of insects, each from all the rest; but it is needless to pursue this fertile topic further just now.—

P. 25. Ponies & small dogs; the latter are pretty generally the most pampered & overfed of any; & it is a common remark that a pony eats as much as a large horse! When dwarfs occur in the human species, or among humped cattle (the gyni), a stunted supply of food is certainly not the predisposing cause! although we know that this will affect the growth or development of the individual thus stunted— We may be very sure that lap-dogs, bantam fowls, & the like, are not to be ascribed to semi-starvation on the part of their progenitors! Nor the ponies of the Malasian islands! But the tiny cattle of Lapland (described by Clarke) may be aninstance——5

P. 27. I remember a paper of de Blainville’s, in which he describes & figures several abnormities of dentition:6 but strange to say, he does not distinguish between specifical & individual abnormities. Among the former, may be cited the Megalotis Lalandii, with its third true molar, constant; the Proteles, with its altogether queer dentition; the Cheiromys among Lemurs, & the Phascalomys among marsupials,—both rodent modifications;—also the Canis primævus, Hodgson (& numerous affined races, if really different, viz. C. dukhunensis, Sykes, C. rutilus, Tem., &c.), which constantly wants the small second true molar in the lower jaw; wherein it differs from all races of domestic dogs, even the Dingo, which otherwise might have been thought to derive from this; the only parallel case known is that of a fossil Canis discovered by Lund in the caverns of Brazil.7 Well, the Hyæna has an anomalous dentition among the Viveriidæ, to which it strictly appertains; & the Galæopithecus among Lemurs. —Now for individual cases. The naked Guinea-dog has the grinders very defective, more or less so in different individuals: the teeth belonging to the mucous membrane system, & not to the osseous system, as you know of course. Individual abnormities of dentition occur, I think, more frequently in excess than in defect; & a very remarkable instance of this has just occurred to me, in the skeleton of an adult female Mias Pappan Orang-utan, which on one side only has a fourth true molar above & below, the upper very small, the lower fully developed, but placed obliquely at the base of the ascending angle of the jaw! Now a fourth true molar (normally), as you know, is one of the many distinctive characters of most marsupialia! However, the general minute adherence to the normal type of dentition in all mammalia, & especially domestic dogs, is very remarkable. Add to Lyell’s case of the dogs with supernumerary toe, & the six-fingered human beings, that of the 5-toed domestic fowls,—8 Next page: What is the difference that Guldenstadt points out between the intestinal canal of the Wolf & Dog;9 & is it permanent? I suspect not. You know of course how much the intestinus of the domestic Cat have been lengthened by a less purely carnivorous diet; & you remember Fleming’s experiment with the Gulls—10 Well, do you think that there would be no observable modification of the alimentary canal in the rice-eating Hindu, as compared with the highly carnivorous Gaucho or Cape Boor ? Why not also in the Wolf & Dog? Without affecting the question of their specifical identity?

P. 34. The case of Hydrangea hortensis is a peculiar & isolated instance; & all that is required to produce the blue flower is to put a few iron filings or a little oxyde of iron into the soil where the plant grows; but the effect is of course not permanent, & may be compared to the colouring of a pig’s bones when the animal has been eating madder.11

—I remember a most interesting confirmation of Herbert’s statement about the Primulæ.12 Close to a park-lodge near Carshalton in Surrey I saw a bank covered with primroses of various colours, which had a very pretty effect. The keeper, noticing my admiration of them, & profoundly innocent of all theory on the subject, took me into his little back garden, & shewed me a bed of choice polyanthuses. Would you believe it, said he, that the seed of those polyanthuses, cast upon that bank, has produced all the coloured primroses &c

P. 36. For the best account of the changes of plumage of the Ptarmigan, vide Mc Gillivrays British Birds—13 Many zoologists now believe the Irish Hare to be a permanently coloured variety of the Alpine H.; & the Lagopus scoticus to be a similar permanently coloured variety of the L. subalpinus (v. saliceti). To that opinion I also much incline.

P. 42. Has the Pig had a fair trial, for a succession of generations? To me it is not so clear but that the pointing might become a hereditary instinct, as in the Dog?—

P. 43, The Cat is scarcely a gregarious animal; though the Felis tribe are, nevertheless, more or less social among themselves, & none more so than their maned chieftain the Lion. (Vide especially Gordon Cumming).—14

P. 46. See any work on Burma, for descriptions of the Elephants’ tact in piling timber, eyeing the lines to ascertain that they are quite straight, &c—

P. 47. I am informed that the Macacus nemestrinus (alias Simia carpolegus, Raffles), or “Pig-tailed Monkey”, is regularly trained in Borneo for gathering cocoa-nuts. A friend assures me that he lately saw there a lot of them in course of training. My informant is the Rev Dr Mc Dougall (Bishop elect of Borneo,) A curious dignity for a M.R.C.S of London, & who was formerly a midshipman! who has lived for some years in & about Borneo,15 & is quite familiar with the Orangs in a state of nature. He tells me that however powerful they may be, they are not at all inclined to be ferocious, but are extremely inoffensive; to the presence of the natives they seem quite indifferent, but flee and endeavour to hide from the sight of Europeans. On approaching too close to one, he makes an attempt to frighten by uttering a peculiar explosive sound, & this again & again, should the intruder continue to advance; & finally he will break off a bough with super-human strength of arm & fling it with tolerably unerring aim & force at his opponent. When I disparaged the instinct of the Orangs in comparison with dogs, Dr. Mc Dougall did not agree with me in opinion: but it seems they can scarcely be reared in captivity even in their native country, being so impatient of restraint, & most troublesomely affectionate when at liberty to those they know. Dr. Mc Dougall gives them credit for no small amount of intellect; & he speaks from having had the best opportunity of observation. The species of Hylobates are as troublesomely affectionate when tame, even the large males with great canines, as I have witnessed in several instances. Among the lower Monkeys, I have always found the nemestrinus one of the best-tempered & equably so: (this animal is found as high as Pegu, where there is another very like it, but with long hair, the M. arctoides:) the M. niger of Celebes is another uniformly good-tempered Monkey, when well treated: the next three somewhat less, though generally to be trusted by those they know—M. rhesus (our Bengal species),—M. silenus (which comes from Travancore & Cochin, not Ceylon),—& I think the Barbary Magot:—but the long-tailed species, as M. radiatus, M. sinicus (of Ceylon), & M. cynomolgus, are always treacherous & untrustworthy, when they have got their permanent canines. I have witnessed considerable attachment to those it knows on the part of nemestrinus; but for genuine affection to people they know, I think the prehensile-tailed Monkeys of S. America far exceed all but the true Apes of the Old World. I have now a tame Cebus capucinus which is attached to all my family circle as much as any animal can be, & when I had a large garden was suffered to be loose for weeks together. It never left the premises; & in like manner the Hylobates hooloc is best kept at large, at perfect liberty, of which it never takes undue advantage; but this cannot be managed altogether in towns! Though more gentle, however, according to my observations, the N. World Monkeys are much less docile than ours here; & it surprises me therefore to notice Humboldt’s statement quoted by Lyell.— Are not all the Sapajous of Buffon far more intelligent than his Sagouins ?

P. 49. Is it well authenticated that the male mule has ever procreated? I suspect not, though it covers readily enough!16

P. 52. I believe it is a general rule, that when nearly affined varieties interbreed, a pointer & setter for instance, the offspring are not generally intermediate, but pointers or setters, some of each; & then each may throw out the other in the next or subsequent generations, without a second intermixture: but when the parent varieties are more distinct, as the Negro & European, an intermediate offspring is generally produced. Now the offspring of a blonde & brunette among Europeans are generally either blondes or brunettes, some of each; & perhaps we have a peculiar manifestation of the pairing instinct among mankind, in the mutual preference so often evinced by blondes & brunettes, & short and tall, either way! The mixed offspring of the European and Hindu seems to be always intermediate. The Wolf case cited by Lyell in p. 51 should therefore bear out my idea of the affinity of the Wolf & Dog; as a case I before mentioned to you equally does in the case of the dog & Jackal.— The humped & humpless cattle produce constantly an intermediate offspring. Ditto Horse & Ass; & knobbed & common Geese. Some years ago there was an animal in the Z. Gardens, which was daily worked in harness together with a white Syrian or Egyptian Ass, in whose blood 3 species were mixed up! viz. Ass, Zebra, & Quagga! The cases cited from Prichard in p. 52, are exceptions decidedly.17

—P. 53. I remember being shewn in England a hybrid Calceolaria, the parents of which were a herbaceous & a half-shrubby species from different regions, & very unlike, which I was assured produced prolific seed (unassisted) as freely as either parent species! If you could find up Mr. Bruce, then gardener to Boyd Miller Esq (who I think is since dead), of Merton, Surrey, he, who is a clever & well informed Scotch gardener, & worthy of all credit, could probably still furnish the exact details & give you the names of the species. Still, we must remember, 1, the beautiful & minute adaptation of every species (animal or vegetable) to its indigenous haunts; and 2, that notwithstanding that special adaptation, what a very small proportion of the germs (eggs or seeds) produced by these normal races ever come to maturity; & therefore that in the struggle for existence, hybrids & varieties generally must be expected to give way before the pure types,—an old argument which there is no occasion for me to enlarge upon.

P. 68. Colours of Indian birds. We have some of transcendant beauty, as the Irena puella, & the Grandala cœlicolor of Hodgson, which, of all unexpected places for so superbly coloured a bird to resort to, keeps always near the snow-line of the Himalaya, & finds its food where the snow melts! Our Nectariniidæ are among the most beautiful of birds, & some of the Malayan Pittæ; but, as a rule, undoubtedly, the Insessorial birds of Asia are far inferior to those of S. America in gorgeousness of colouring.18 Our gallinaceous birds, on the contrary, far surpass those of the rest of the world in variety & beauty. Witness the 2 Peafowl, the Monâl, Tragopans, Golden Pheasant, &c &c. America has its Ocellated Turkey, only, to compare with either of these; and although the Turkey genus is exclusively American, it nevertheless belongs to the Old World type of Poultry, as distinguished from the New; & this may be also said of the Grouse & Ptarmigan of N. America. The Turkeys are the only American birds which have spurred tarsi!

P. 75. See Dr. J. D. Hooker’s remarks on the great number of species of ferns identical in the most distant countries.19

P. 76. “Sargasso”. Is not this the popular name of the Fucus natans?20

P. 77. I need not remind you of Henslow’s experiments on the vitality of seeds, & the Brit. Assocn. researches on ditto.21

P. 80. Thrushes eject the seeds of the haw by the mouth, not “in their excrement”; but the farmers in Surrey have another way to accelerate the germination of the haw-seeds, viz. by allowing a mass of berries to ferment, & the heat so generated quickens the vitality of the seed, equally with the heat of the bird’s body. I would try the experiment of feeding a Turkey with haws. Here again bear in mind Henslow’s experiments, & the results of steeping seeds in hot water.—

P. 82. Has it not been contended that maize was known to the ancient Egyptians? I am under the impression that the genuine wild banana is now well known,22 being a small fruit full of seeds but with little pulp. Some of the inferior varieties of cultivated plantains contain many seeds, but the better sorts none. The Musa Cavendishii is considered a distinct species of fruit-bearing plantain. Another cultivated species, the M. textilis (the fibre of which is the “Manilla hemp”) bears no edible fruit, & so also with that grand ornamental plant, the M. superba, which differs from the rest in never throwing out suckers from the root, and consequently can only be propagated by seed, after producing which the plant died. It has an enormously bulbous stem, & leaves of grand dimensions Thus also with the magnificent palms of the genus Corypha (including the famed talipot of Malabar & Ceylon, which being translated signifies palm-leaf, ta’l-pat). These may flourish for half a century or more, then produce a gigantic mass of inflorescence, the seeds taking 2 years to ripen when they are shot forth with amazing force, the plant then dying. One of C. elata (another very superb species, indigenous to this country,) lived 70 years in the Calcutta Bot. garden. I suppose you know that what are called bananas in the W. are here termed plantains; & the “plantains” of the W. are sometimes distinguished as “house-plantains” here. Again the “shaddock” of the W. is here called “Pumplenose” (pronounced pummilo).23 Of course you know that Citrus is one of the most puzzling genera of plants, as regards the determination of its actual species. It seems to me that careful experiments are much needed, & a record of the results produced by sowing a given number of seeds of each kind of fruit. At present all seems to be vague & untrustworthy; & the idea is somewhat prevalent, that each will produce any other, or the various oranges & shaddocks on the one hand, & the lemons, limes & citrons, on the other! Assertions to this effect I have often heard, as founded on personal observation; but I am far from being satisfied at present.

—Do any varieties occur among the palms? For instance, are the superior cocoa-nuts of the Nicobars due to race, or soil & especially climate? I suspect the latter. Botanists differ in opinion respecting the date-palms; some considering the Phœnix acaulis of the Coromandel coast (& probably also the affined Ph. ousleyana of Central India) to be stunted varieties of the ordinary date, of which Ph. sylvatica of Bengal is supposed to be the wild race, & Ph. dactylifera of Arabia, Egypt, &c, to be an improved variety of the same. I suspect that all are distinct species; especially as they grow together in the Calcutta B. garden, where the stemless races retain that remarkable character, & I believe no instance is positively known of the seed of the one producing the other. Then bear in mind also the vast extent of country over which each race is spread without variation! In the Bengal Sundarbans we have a curious branching date, the Ph. paludosa, which constitutes extensive tracts of jungle, but will not grow even here, at Calcutta! You must remember the branching Doum palm of Upper Egypt, figured by Savigny.24 There is a similarly branching Borassus in S. India; and the common B. flabelliferus (or “Palmyra”) has been rarely known to divide & throw up 2 heads.There is also in this neighbourhood a very curious instance of a branching cocoa-nut (C. nucifera), the stem of which throws off numerous side-shoots, larger in proportion to their height from the ground. I drew Falconer’s attention to this, & he has had a drawing taken of it: but I am digressing fearfully.

—Lyell, p. 87. “Cameleopard”. Why Camel-leo-pard ? Camelopardalis!25 I see by one of the papers this morning that the King of Oudh offers 40,000 Rupees (or £4000) to any one who will break in his pair of Giraffes to go in a barouche!!! What next?

P. 89. Remember that marsupials extend to the Moluccas & Philippines, & in America belong to the S. continent, with the solitary exception of D. virginianus in the extreme south only of the northern! I.e. Their existing distribution.26

P. 90. The statement that “the Sunda isles contain a Hippopotamus” is erroneous: the Sumatran Tapir extends throughout the Malayan peninsula, & as high as Mergui (together with the Argus & great Fire-backed Pheasants). The Sumatran Rhinoceros goes even higher, in the Tenasserim provinces; the Javanese is also said to be found there, but to keep to the higher elevations; & the Bodok of Borneo is believed to be R. sondaicus. You know I presume of the little Hippopotamus liberiensis, scarcely larger than a big Hog, which abounds inland at the settlement of Liberia, 100 miles or so from the coast. I suspect that 2 or 3 species of Rhinoceros (all the Asiatic) will prove to inhabit the S.E. of China, in Yunan! The Sumatran Elephant has lately been named, as a peculiar species, intermediate to the Indian & African, by the Prince of Canino; but neither Falconer nor Owen, I believe, coincides in this opinion. Herds of wild Elephants exist in some parts of Borneo, as I am assured by Dr. Mc Dougall; & I am now far from satisfied that the wild Bos of Borneo is B. sondaicus. It is very remarkable that Borneo contains no Feline animal larger than F. macrocelis; and were there not Orangs also in Sumatra, I should have doubted whether these animals could have co-existed with the Tiger.

Lyell, p. 90 still. Only one species of Bat has hitherto been discovered in N. Zealand, & this is peculiar to it (so far as known), & has been made a particular genus of by Gray.27 The only additional land mammal is the still undescribed & perhaps now extirpated native rat; the extirpator appearing to be M. rattus & not M. decumanus. Some time ago I saw a newspaper account of some Badger-like animal discovered in N. Zealand. If true, probably a marsupial! The two former represent the only two non-marsupial groups found in Australia, viz Cheiroptera & Rodentia, & Muridæ only among the latter.

P. 91. Need I remark that there is a peculiar Hog in N. Guinea, the Sus papuensis, Lesson; the nearest affine to which is Hodgson’s Pigmy Hog of the subHimalayan Sâl forests!28 Did not Mc Gillivray take one of them to England?

P. 95. It is doubtful whether the Dziiggetai of N. Asia, which certainly = the Kyang of Tibet, is identical with the Ghor-Khur (literally Horse-Ass), of Sindh, Mesopotamia, &c. We have yet much to learn respecting the species of so called “wild Asses”, see 2 papers of mine in Ann. Mag N. H. about 15 years ago.—29

P. 96. Mydaus meliceps. This also inhabits the Malayan peninsula. Horsfield, who by birth is an American, told me that he rather enjoyed than otherwise the stench of this animal, as it reminded him of the fetid Skunk of his own country!!! Quite a pleasing reminiscence of home!

P. 98, &c Rafts of timber with growing plants out to sea. Remember how injurious the sea-air is to most plants, wherein the necessity of Ward’s cases.30

P. 100. Distribution of Parrots. These are not so exclusively tropical in the S. hemisphere; N. Holland, V.D. Land, & N. Zealand to wit; & it is a disputed point whether the common Ring Parrakeets of India & Africa are identical. I believe the latter are smaller, & these would be true torquetes, & the common Indian bird (if distinct) nameless!31

P. 101. Is Lagopus scoticus distinct from L. subalpinus ? Vide preceding note— No Vulture is cosmopolite! Even the genera of the Old & New World are distinct. Of Old World species, Neophron percnopterus is the most widely distributed. Gyps bengalensis is common to Asia & Africa. But see a late printed note of mine about Vultures, which I think I sent you.—32 Again, the wild Anas anser, alias Anser cinereus, is unknown in America & also in the southern hemisphere; but undoubtedly extends from the British islands to Japan. In America it may be said to be represented by A. hyperboreus.— The Persian nightingale appears to me to be distinct from both the European species. The most cosmopolitan of all birds is the Turnstone (Strepsilas interpres), which is found on all sea-coasts. The next is the Noddy Tern—Anous stolidus. The Raven has often been supposed to be, but erroneously: it is unknown in the southern hemisphere (Levaillant’s Cape Raven having never been verified). The Raven is unknown in the Himalaya, and in all India, save the Punjab, where the Rook & Jackdaw also occur. Hodgson’s Tibetan Raven is considered distinct by the Prince of Canino. See Von Wrangell for the finest account of the Raven braving high latitudes.33 The Snipe has also been erroneously thought a cosmopolite from the different species resembling. Passer montanus has a remarkably wide distribution, if the Asiatic race be really identical with the European. It abounds in the Malayan peninsula & archipelago, China, Japan, &c The common sparrow of India is just what many would set down as an obvious climatal variety. The under-parts are much whiter than in the European, & the ruddy-maroon of the male is brighter & more developed. But are the sparrows of the intervening countries intermediate? Many consider domesticus, cisalpinus, & hispaniolensis, to be climatal varieties of the same! If so, there is an end to the discrimination of species. Each has a wide distribution, & hispaniolensis from Afghanistan & the extreme N.W. of India (where known as the ‘Kabul Sparrow’) is indistinguishable from Barbary specimens. Petronia has the same wide range & without any variation.

P. 103. Small species of true Boa are found, one in India, the B. conica, & another in Amboyna, N. Guinea, &c—B. carinata. Line 2 from bottom, for “Alligator” read Crocodile Falconer is mighty particular about this, & yet he terms the Hargila or “Adjutant-bird” the “gigantic crane”! Now the difference between Cranes & Storks is much greater than between Crocodiles and Alligators! There are Cobras in Africa, as the well known Asp!34 And another figured by Dr. A Smith.35 It is a curious fact that the largest existing land-Tortoises known should be respectively indigenous to two groups of small oceanic islands, both about under the line I write from memory36 viz. the Gallapagos & the Seychelles.

How about the fauna of Ireland? I believe it wants, or did want, the Lepus timidus, the Squirrel, & the Mole (Dormouse?); the Lepus hibernicus is perhaps a variety of L. variabilis; & is Jenyns’s Sorex hibernicus a good species? The Mus hibernicus, Thompson, is I believe M. rattus; & are you aware that there is a brown variety of this, which I have seen alive, loose, in the Z. gardens, Regent’s Pk, & also obtained here from a ship? It is distinctly a brown variety of the black rat, coloured like Decumanus.—

P. 93. The “Elk” of N. America is the Wapiti Stag; the true Elk being there called Moose. In the Nat. Library, a Wapiti-hunt thus passes for an Elk or Moose hunt!37

P. 101.38 Enquire further into the case of the V.D. Land Phasianella.

P. 109. Succinea putris: I have seen what appears to be this from Tibet, but do not believe it to be Indian, other & affined species having doubtless been mistaken for it, here & elsewhere. About Calcutta we have 3 distinct Succineæ; & in the days when the name Helix putris passed current, several of the Succineæ would scarcely have been distinguished. A friend introduced a pair of Helix aspersa into his garden here, but they did not multiply, probably from want of being looked after at first. The rapid multiplication here of Achatina perdix I have before mentioned.39

P. 113. I have taken Cynthia cardui here, & seen specimens from Afghanistan, V.D. Land, & many other distant regions,—all utterly undistinguishable. Swainson’s figure of Papilio (Podalirius) nomius of Brazil40 is undistinguishable from the Indian race.

P. 139. “Racoon of the W. Indies”. I never heard of such an animal on the islands;— Hyænas, in Syria, are said to be great devourers of bulbs! Vide Hasselquist (I think).41 Locusts. I lately read an account of flights of these in the Cape colony, which were soon, as usual, followed by the “locust-birds”; which latter (from the description given) would seem to be Neophron percnopterus.—

P. 149. “Ancient breed of indigenous horses”. What were they? I doubt that the Chillingham cattle are a remnant of an indigenous wild race. 42 Even the colour tells against them.

P. 151. Bones of Testudo indica (so called) in the Mauritius! This reptile is only known at present to be indigenous to the Seychelles,43 where there are many peculiar species of animals & plants; among the latter the famed Cocos de Mer,44 which even there only thrives (I believe) upon two of the islands! Referring to Strickland’s work on the Dodo, & especially the facsimile of pl. 2. of Van Neck’s Voyage, with its accompanying notices in old French,45 the question seems settled of the living land Tortoise being indigenous to the Mauritius. 46

P. 154. I wonder at the Peafowl not running wild in the W. Indies. The Guineafowl I think has.— I here close the 2d. Vol. of Lyell, having found less to remark upon than I expected; but I have a strong impression of not having yet met with certain passages, which may occur in other Volumes.

CD annotations

1.4 The Hylobates… walking. 1.6] scored brown crayon
2.1 i.e.… in this; 2.2] scored brown crayon
2.3 in detail.] ‘on Genera.—’ added brown crayon, underl brown crayon
2.5 but … class. 2.6] scored brown crayon
2.6 birds of … cæcum 2.11] scored brown crayon
2.8 Man … fourth: 2.9] scored brown crayon
2.14 no intergrading … Platyrhyni, 2.15] scored brown crayon
3.1 small dogs] underl brown crayon
3.1 pampered & overfed 3.2] underl brown crayon
3.6 lap-dogs … fowls] underl brown crayon
4.2 dentition] ‘dentitionadded pencil for clarity
4.7 Sykes … differs from 4.9] scored brown crayon
4.22 the general … remarkable. 4.24] scored brown crayon
4.28 been lengthened … canal 4.30] scored brown crayon
4.29 Fleming’s] underl brown crayon
7.3 Lagopus scoticus… incline. 7.5] scored brown crayon
11.11 continue … did not 11.14] scored brown crayon
11.23 M. niger of Celebes 11.24] underl brown crayon, scored brown crayon
12.1 male… enough! 12.2] scored brown crayon
13.3 pointer … subsequent 13.4] scored brown crayon; brown crayon cross added referring to a separate note (DAR 98: 44): ‘I think this may hold good. without relation to species & varieties, but whether more or less affined.— Do “exeptional types” occur more frequently in Plants, when little affined forms are crossed— I think not evidence enough.— There is more variability when varieties are crossed ie perhaps take more after one or other parent.—’
1scored brown crayon
13.11 The Wolf … Jackal.— 13.13] scored brown crayon
13.12 as a case … Ass, 13.16] scored brown crayon
15.3 so superbly … melts! 15.4] scored brown crayon
19.1 haw] ‘Haw’ added pencil
20.4 many seeds … none.] scored brown crayon
21.4 Coromandel … B. garden, 21.8] ‘Date Palms?’added brown crayon
21.17 the stem … digressing 21.20] scored brown crayon
23.1 Moluccas & Philippines] underl brown crayon
24.10 The Sumatran … opinion. 24.12] scored brown crayon
24.13 Dr. McDougall … Sumatra, 24.16] scored brown crayon
26.1 peculiar Hog in N. Guinea] underl brown crayon
27.3 We have … Ann. Mag N. H. 27.4] scored brown crayon
28.1 Mydaus meliceps… peninsula] scored brown crayon; ‘Mydaus melicepsunderl brown crayon
31.18 Passer… &c 31.20] double scored brown crayon
31.23 Many consider … India 31.26] scored brown crayon
32.7 should … Seychelles. 32.9] double scored brown crayon
34.1 P. 93… . hunt! 34.3] scored brown crayon
35.1 further … appears 36.1] double scored brown crayon
37.1 specimens … race. 37.4] scored brown crayon
40.1 Testudo indica… species 40.3] scored brown crayon
40.4 Referring … Mauritius. 40.7]double scored brown crayon
Top of first page: ‘7’pencil
Verso of last page: ‘1’brown crayon; ‘3’ brown crayon; ‘Himalaya Rabbit.)’ pencil, del pencil CD note:47 Admit this for now living, with partial exception.—ornithoryhnchus. But look to fossils, Pachydermata & Ruminantia.— Banish all idea of fossil from mind.— These may be considered an exception, but whether they ought to be so considered depends entirely how perfect one looks at Palæontology.— Admit even with fossils nothing direct between any one genus [‘order’ added above] & another genus [‘order’ added above]


These notes were sent in the post of 8 October (see letter from Edward Blyth, 8 October 1855) and were written after the notes of 30 September or 7 October in which Blyth stated that he did not have the second volume of C. Lyell 1830–3 to hand.
C. Lyell 1830–3, vol. 2, to which the page numbers in Blyth’s letter refer. Many of the points noted by Blyth had already been incorporated by Charles Lyell in his revisions of the work for the eight further editions published by 1855 (see letter from Edward Blyth, [30 September or 7 October 1855], n. 31). There is a copy of Lyell 1830–3 in the Darwin Library–CUL.
The Egyptian Hall (whose name was derived from its architecture although its official name was the London Museum) was built on Piccadilly and opened in 1812 with its central display devoted to natural history (Altick 1978, pp. 236–7).
CD’s objections to Blyth’s views were recorded on a loose note (DAR 98: 39) previously pinned to this letter. The note has been transcribed following CD’s annotations, above.
Clarke 1810–23, pt 3, sect. 1, p. 309.
The Brazilian fossil Canis, wanting a second molar in the lower jaw, is described in Lund 1840, p. 255. CD’s copy of the Magazine of Natural History, in which this paper appeared, is in the Darwin Library–CUL. The passage mentioned in the letter was scored by CD.
Lyell, referring to Georges Cuvier, had stated that in dogs ‘the form of the teeth never changes in any perceptible degree, except that in some individuals, one additional false grinder occasionally appears … The greatest departure from a common type, and it constitutes the maximum of variation as yet known in the animal kingdom, is exemplified in those races of dogs which have a supernumerary toe on the hind foot with the corresponding tarsal bones, a variety analogous to one presented by six-fingered families of the human race.’ (C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 27).
C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 28, refers to Prichard 1826, 1: 96, on this point. Prichard 1826, 1: 96 n. adds only: ‘Professor Güldenstädt, of Petersburg, has discovered some difference in the intestinum cœcum of the Wolf and the Dog.’ He refers to Johann Anton Güldenstädt.
The reference to John Fleming may be a mistake for John Hunter. Hunter’s anatomical preparation no. 523 shows the thickening of the muscular coat of the stomach of a gull, which Hunter had fed for a year chiefly upon grain (Royal College of Surgeons 1833–40, 1: 149–50).
Blyth had discussed this point in Blyth 1835, p. 44. CD’s copy of the Magazine of Natural History in which this article appeared is in the Darwin Library–CUL and was annotated by CD.
C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 34, with reference to Herbert 1822.
Macgillivray 1837–52, 1: 165–210. This work is in the Darwin Library–CUL and was annotated by CD.
Cumming 1850, 1: 194–6.
Francis Thomas McDougall had been ordained in 1845 and had undertaken missionary work in Borneo in 1847 after first training as a physician. He was consecrated bishop of Labuan in Calcutta on 18 October 1855, and appointed bishop of Sarawak in December 1855.
Lyell had stated that ‘it is well established, that the male-mule can generate and the female-mule produce’ (C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 49).
C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 52, cites Prichard 1826, 1: 217 and 97, on the colour of the offspring of black and white parents and on the preservation of distinct species in nature.
Lyell had stated that ‘the birds of the continent of India glow with colours less splendid than the birds of the hot parts of America’ (C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 68).
C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 76, refers to ‘the lenticula marina, or sargasso, a bean’. Fucus natans is a synonym of Sargassum natans, Sargasso weed.
John Stevens Henslow served on a British Association for the Advancement of Science committee from 1841 to 1857 to investigate the vitality of seeds.
C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 82: ‘No one contests the American origin of the maize … But there are certain objects of culture … such … as the banana, of which the origin cannot be verified.’
Pumple-nose, pompelmoose, pomelo, pomilo, or Shaddock, usually denotes the grapefruit, a variety of shaddock.
The ‘Palmier Doum’ is figured in Savigny 1826, 3: plates 1 and 2.
Cameleopard was a common error for camelopard, the ancient term for giraffe.
C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 89, records ‘with the exception of a few American opossums’, the ‘exclusive occupation of the Australian continent by the kangaroos and other tribes of pouched animals’.
C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 90, refers to bats having been found in New Zealand. John Edward Gray reclassified the only known New Zealand species, Vespertilio tuberculatus, as Mystacina tuberculata in Dieffenbach 1843, 2: 296.
C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 91, states: ‘The New Guinea hog is of the Chinese variety, and was probably brought from some of the neighbouring isles’.
Blyth 1840a and 1840b. CD’s copy of the Magazine of Natural History in which these articles appeared is in the Darwin Library–CUL. They were annotated by CD.
Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward discovered the preservative power of closely glazed cases in 1830. Plants enclosed in almost air-tight small glass cases did not require water, as the moisture they gave forth by way of transpiration was reabsorbed, and were protected from changes in the outside environment. These cases, which came to be known as Wardian cases, were therefore of great use in transporting plants from one country to another. See D. E. Allen 1976, pp. 133–4.
C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 100, says of parrots: ‘In this extensive family, which are, with few exceptions, inhabitants of tropical regions, the American group has not one in common with the African, nor either of these with the parrots of India.’
Blyth 1855a, p. 253. An offprint of this report is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL and was annotated by CD.
Blyth probably refers to the dramatic account of the costume of a Tschuktche chief, whose cap was ‘surmounted by a large raven’s head, which he told us would ensure a fortunate journey’ (Wrangel 1844, p. 349). Ferdinand von Wrangel was at that time close to Cape North, about 69o N.
Lyell had stated that ‘we find the boa of America, represented by the python … in India. America is the country of the rattle-snake, Africa of the cerastes, and Asia of the hooded snake or cobra di capello.’ (C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 103).
Three cobras are figured in A. Smith 1838–49, Reptilia: plates 18–21, 34, 70: Naia haje (the biblical asp), Naja haemachates, and Naia angusticeps respectively, though the last, according to Andrew Smith ‘in various respects appears to be an aberrant species.’ This work is in the Darwin Library–CUL and was annotated by CD. Naja haje (‘Naia’ is an incorrect subsequent spelling) is the Egyptian cobra; N. haemachates is a synonym of Hemachatus haemachatus, the ring-necked spitting cobra; N. angusticeps is a synonym of Dendroaspis angusticeps, the green mamba.
The phrase ‘I write from memory’ was added in the margin with a line to indicate the text to which it applied.
The Wapiti (Cervus canadensis) is described in Jardine 1835, pp. 156–60.
‘P. 101’ is a mistake for ‘P. 107’.
See letter from Edward Blyth, [30 September or 7 October 1855]. Succinea putris is the European ambersnail.
Swainson 1829, p. 32, where Papilio niamus is described as an extremely rare butterfly from southern Brazil with ‘very close affinity to Podalirius’.
Probably a reference to Hasselquist 1766, which does not contain this information. However, Blyth 1840c, p. 70, states that the striped hyena ‘about Mount Libanus, Syria, the north of Asia, and in the vicinity of Algiers, is known, according to Bruce [Bruce 1813, 7: 236], to feed mostly upon large succulent bulbs … and that author informs us that he has known large spaces of fields turned up by it to get at onions and others roots’.
In discussing the effects of human society on British fauna over the centuries, Lyell had stated that a result was the extinction of ‘the ancient breed of indigenous horses, the wild boar, and the wild oxen, of which last, however, a few remains are still preserved in the parks of some of our nobility.’ (C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 149). In his later discussion of the wild cattle still in existence, in Variation 1: 84–5, CD stated that the ‘cattle in all the parks are white’ but, like Blyth, doubted whether the aboriginal Bos primigenius was white.
Lyell had stated that bones of the dodo had been found among fossil bones of the living land-tortoise Testudo indica on Mauritius (C. Lyell 1830–3, 2: 151). Land-tortoises were, however, extinct on Mauritius by this time, but references to land-tortoises on the island in the seventeenth century can be found in Strickland and Melville 1848 (see n. 45, below).
The coco-de-mer, or double coconut, is the large two-lobed nut of the Seychelles palm, Lodoicea sechelarum.
Strickland and Melville 1848, pp. 9–11 and Plate II.
This sentence was added in the margin with a line and ‘x’ linking it to the word ‘Seychelles’ in the preceding sentence. For the sake of clarity it has been transcribed following this sentence.
The note is in DAR 98: 39.


Allen, David Elliston. 1976. The naturalist in Britain: a social history. London: Allen Lane.

Altick, Richard D. 1978. The shows of London. Cambridge, Mass., and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Blainville, Henri Marie Ducrotay de. 1837. Sur quelques anomalies du système dentaire dans les Mammifères. Annales Françaises et Etrangers d’Anatomie et de Physiologie, appliquées à la Médecine et à l’Histoire Naturelle 1: 285–314.

Blyth, Edward. 1835. An attempt to classify the ‘varieties’ of animals, with observations on the marked seasonal and other changes which naturally take place in various British species, and which do not constitute varieties. Magazine of Natural History 8: 40–53.

Bruce, James. 1813. Travels to discover the source of the Nile, in the years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, & 1773. 3d ed. 7 vols. Edinburgh.

Clarke, Edward Daniel. 1810–23. Travels in various countries of Europe, Asia and Africa. 3 pts in 6 vols. London.

Dieffenbach, Ernst. 1843. Travels in New Zealand; with contributions to the geography, geology, botany, and natural history of that country. 2 vols. London.

Hasselquist, Frederik. 1766. Voyages and travels in the Levant. London.

Herbert, William. 1822. On the production of hybrid vegetables; with the result of many experiments made in the investigation of the subject. Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London 4: 15–50. [vols. 2,5,8]

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1853–5. Flora Novæ-Zelandiæ. 2 vols. Pt 2 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror, in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Lovell Reeve.

Jardine, William. 1835. The natural history of the ruminating animals, containing deer, antelopes, camels, &c. Pt I. Vol. 11 of Jardine, William, ed., The naturalist’s library. 40 vols. Edinburgh. 1843.

Lund, Peter Wilhelm. 1840. View of the fauna of Brazil, previous to the last geological revolution. Magazine of Natural History n.s. 4: 1–8, 49–57, 105–12, 153–61, 207–13, 251–9, 307–17, 373–89.

Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.

Macgillivray, William. 1837–52. History of British birds, indigenous and migratory. 5 vols. London: Scott, Webster, and Geary; William S. Orr and Co.

Prichard, James Cowles. 1826. Researches into the physical history of mankind. 2d ed. 2 vols. London.

Royal College of Surgeons. 1833–40. Descriptive and illustrated catalogue of the physiological series of comparative anatomy contained in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London. 5 vols. London: R. and J. E. Taylor.

Savigny, Marie Jules César Lelorgne de. 1826. Description de l’Egypte, publiée par les ordres de sa majesté l’Empereur Napoléon le-Grand. Histoire naturelle. Plates. 3 vols. Paris.

Swainson, William. 1829. Vol. 1 of Zoological illustrations; or, original figures and descriptions of new, rare, or interesting animals, selected chiefly from the classes of ornithology, entomology, and conchology, and arranged according to their apparent affinities. Second series. 3 vols. London. 1829–33.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Wrangel, Ferdinand von. 1844. Narrative of an expedition to the Polar Sea, in the years 1820, 1821, 1822 & 1823. 2d ed. [Translated by Elizabeth Juliana Sabine.] Edited by Edward Sabine. London.


Notes on Lyell’s Principles, vol. 2.

EB does not believe in connecting links between genera; there is no tendency to gradation between groups of animals.

Does not believe shortage of food can directly produce any heritable effect on size.

Comments on significance of variations discussed by Lyell. Variation in dentition and coloration.

Behaviour of elephants and monkeys.

When varieties are crossed EB considers that the form of the offspring, whether intermediate or like one or other of the parents, depends upon how nearly related the parents are.

Thinks that in the struggle for existence hybrids, and varieties generally, must be expected to give way to the "beautiful & minute adaptation" of the pure types.

Colours of Indian birds.

Vitality of seeds.

Variation among palms.

Fauna of Malaysia and New Zealand. Ranges of bird species.

[Memorandum originally enclosed with 1760.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Blyth
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 98: A37–A50
Physical description
Amem 23pp †, CD notes 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1762,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

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