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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Laurence Edmondston   11 September [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

Sept. 11th

My dear Sir

I have lately been drawing up descriptions of Pigeons, & you can have no idea how valuable I have found the Shetland Specimen.2 But there were some points which I omitted to examine, for instance the eye-lid, which I find in the Barb, twice as long as in some other breeds.— Again the exact shape of crop I neglected to observe.— You will guess that this is a preface to beg you once again, if you will be so very kind, as to send me per post, (allowing me to pay postage) a wild Rock: though it would be best in early winter as keeping better, & the bird would be more sure to be adult.— Will you be so kind as thus far to aid me?—

Have you succeeded in finding out about the attempts at domestication mentioned by Mr. Macgillivray?3 Are the wild Birds ever chequered with black on their wing coverts? I am interested in this for I find in India, Madeira & the Gambia the quite or half-wild all present this strong variation in plumage.—

Is the Rabbit wild in the Shetlands? I have just lately been comparing my collection of skeletons of domestic & wild Rabbits,4 & I have been very much surprised to find how much some important points vary, as shape of foramen ovale of the atlas vertebra &c &c.— A Shetland specimen put in a jar with lots of salt wd be a treasure to me;5 the more so to compare with a specimen, I have received from the little isld of P. Santo.—6 I presume such cd be sent by ship to London or some Port.? That is if in your power to oblige me.— The Rabbit beyond everything shd. not be killed by blow on head.

I fear that you will think that you have fallen on a most troublesome petitioner.—

I was not aware till I received your letter some two months ago, that you were the Father of the Naturalist, whose fate, I assure you, I most sincerely deplored at the time.—7 I can well believe, for I am a father, how this loss must have damped all your zeal for Natural History.—

Pray believe me with sincere respect | Dear Sir | Yours truly obliged | Ch. Darwin


Dated by the relationship to the letter to Laurence Edmondston, 3 May [1856].
Measurements of a wild rabbit from the Shetland Islands are given in the table of comparisons with other breeds, including feral Porto Santo rabbits, in Variation 1: 127.
Thomas Edmondston was accidentally shot dead in 1846 during the voyage of HMS Herald. Before Edmondston sailed, CD prepared a memorandum for him listing a number of subjects he recommended for investigation during the voyage (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter to Edward Forbes, 13 May [1845]).


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

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


Requests observations on pigeons.

Knew LE’s son [Thomas] and deplores his fate [accidental death in 1846].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Laurence Edmondston
Sent from
Source of text
L. D. Edmondston (private collection)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1954,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

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