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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Laurence Edmondston   [before 3 May 1856]1

– still they may not be decisive for as you may know, the vaunted conjugal fidelity of the ark bird has like most general rules had its exceptions2

I have no idea that the wild pigeons feed far from their breeding places, but believe that they remain— each tribe in the vicinity of their coves, & as to crossing to the Mainland of Scotland that is a feat of migration I should never give them credit for— 3

They have always been very numerous on these islands, & always present the usual uniform colour of the Rock Dove—

I am delighted to hear you are occupied in the effort to throw light on the interesting & difficult subject of Varieties of Species, & I beg you will freely command me when you suppose I may be of use in your researches—

Your query as to drifted Trees I can answer in the affirmative—but instances of them are less frequent now than formerly—& for this obvious enough reasons present themselves—

Mr McGillivray4 was one of my earliest & most respected scientific friends, &

CD annotations

crossed pencil
crossed pencil
‘Drifted Trees’added brown crayon; ‘18’5 added brown crayon; ‘Shetland Isdadded pencil
6.1 Mr McGillivray … friends, &] crossed pencil Bottom of last page: ‘L. Edmondston’ pencil


The correspondent is identified by CD’s annotation. The letter is dated by its relationship to the letter to Laurence Edmondston, 3 May [1856].
The dove, particularly the turtle-dove, has long been considered the ideal of conjugal love and fidelity.
Edmondston resided on the Shetland Islands, to the north-west of Scotland.
William Macgillivray, Scottish naturalist and author of A history of British birds (1837–52), had died in 1852. A copy of his work is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the means of geographical dispersal of plants and animals.


The vaunted fidelity of the ark bird has its exceptions.

Gives some details on wild pigeons.

Answers in the affirmative CD’s query about drifted trees.

Letter details

Letter no.
Laurence Edmondston
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.2: 229
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1865,” accessed on 18 January 2022,

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