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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   14 January [1856]

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 14th.—

My dear Sir

I have been unwell for a week, otherwise I shd. not have left so many days elapse without thanking you very sincerely for your most kind offer of buying for me old Cocks at Stephens.—1 I have only one skeleton as yet, of a good Spanish Cock, so that I shd be glad of anything or everything, which you consider a distinct breed. I shd. be willing to go to 5s per bird.— My old friend the Rev. R. Pulleine (whose name, I daresay you have heard as a good Poultry judge) sent me a message the other day that he was sure that Mr Baily would at his request send me anything;2 but I believe your scheme is more sure & I will not as yet try Baily. I am in no hurry. If I succeed in my attempts to get the skins of Poultry from all quarters of the world,3 I shall want skins of the breeds of England for comparison; so if you stumble on a bird in good plumage, I wish you would have its neck broken, instead of cut, & then I shall understand that you think it worth skinning, instead of skeletonising. Should I ultimately succeed in making good collection of skins & skeletons of our domestic birds, I shall give whole to British Museum.4

I have sent a few addresses, as possibly saving you a very little trouble.—

I do not think I shall come up to London for a few weeks, but when I do I shall ask permission to visit either Mr. Wickings or Bults collection, & I will inform you, so as to know what hour will suit you, if you are inclined to come & can put off your visit till I do come, as it was evident I had better come as your companion, if you think it worth while to inspect these collections.—5 But I will write again nearer the time.

With very sincere thanks | Your’s truly | C. Darwin

Mr Bult, I shd. think knew most, & it must be near to you, though far for me.—


CD refers to John Crace Stevens, auctioneer at 38 King Street, Covent Garden. Advertisements appeared occasionally in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette of auctions of poultry at Stevens’s address. CD wanted old cocks of different breeds of fowl for his study of their osteological differences.
See Correspondence vol. 5, CD memorandum, [December 1855].
CD donated his collection of sixty domestic pigeons and six ducks to the British Museum in 1867 (British Museum (Natural History) 1904–6, 2: 256 and 336).
Matthew Wicking and Benjamin Edmund Bult were members of the Philoperisteron Society, and CD probably met them at the society’s meeting of 8 January (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 1 January [1856], n. 2). In Natural selection, p. 258, CD referred to Wicking as having ‘kept a larger stock of various breeds [of pigeons] together than any man probably in Britain’ and in Variation 1: 201, as having had ‘more experience than any other person in England in breeding pigeons of various colours’. In Variation 1: 208, CD described Bult as ‘the most successful breeder of Pouters in the world’. See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, [1 February 1856], in which a meeting with Bult was arranged and letter to W. E. Darwin, [26 February 1856], in which CD mentions a visit to Wicking.


British Museum (Natural History). 1904–6. The history of the collections contained in the natural history departments of the British Museum. 2 vols. London: the Trustees.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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


Is attempting to get skins of poultry from all quarters of the world. Wants to inspect poultry collections.

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 7pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1820,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6