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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Buckman   4 October [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Oct. 4th

My dear Sir

I want to beg a favour of you & shd. be very much obliged if you could kindly grant it.— I am keeping all Breeds of Pigeons on account of the subject of Variation, on which I know that you are much interested.2 I have just ordered a pair of Smiters from a Mr. Roe of Salisbury,3 who informs me that he got this very rare Breed from Mr. K inder or Tr inder Junr of Cirencester. Now would you be so very kind as to endeavour to find out the gentleman & beg him to answer the questions on the enclosed paper. You would thus confer a great favour on me.

Supposing that for any reason you do not like to do this; will you let me know, & I will ask my cousin Mr. Holland of Dumpleton to make the enquiries,4 but as he is not on the spot, I have ventured to ask you.—

I have lately seen a short abstract in Athenæum of a communication by you on the variation of Plants by culture read before Brit. Assoc.—5 I feel the deepest & most lively interest in these researches of yours— Will you tell me whether they will be published in detail & soon? For I must get the volume whenever published.— Mr Bentham6 told me sometime ago that you had already published on this subject;7 will you be so kind, as to give me references of any papers by you on this subject, as I must carefully study all that you have done on this head.—8

I hope that you will forgive my troubling you, & believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


(1)Whence were the Smiters procured: if from abroad what name did they bear? (2)What are the peculiarities in their habits? (3)Will they display their peculiarities in a cage, some 5 or 6 yards long by 4 or 5 broad & ten ft high? Or must they be quite free.— (4).Are the peculiarities the same in Cock & Hen? are they equally displayed in all; or are some Birds much better than others? I refer of course, only to pure bred Birds.— (5)Do they breed true in form & colour?


Dated by CD’s interest in smiter pigeons (see n. 3, below).
Buckman was professor of geology and botany at the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester from 1848. He worked particularly on varieties of agricultural plants (see nn. 5, 7, and 8, below).
CD recorded a payment of 10s. for smiters on 12 September 1857 (CD’s Account book (Down House MS)). See also letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 29 September [1857].
Edward Holland, who lived in Dumbleton, north Gloucestershire, was CD’s second cousin.
Buckman communicated a ‘Report on the experimental plots in the botanical garden of the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester’ to the 1857 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Buckman 1857). Buckman’s paper was reported in Athenæum, 12 September 1857, p. 1157. An offprint of Buckman 1857, inscribed ‘With the authors compliments.’ and containing annotations by CD, is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
George Bentham.
Buckman had delivered an earlier report to the British Association (Buckman 1856). In this paper, he had concluded that the common agricultural clover, Trifolium medium, had merged into T. pratense.
There is a note in DAR 47: 65 that reads: Such cases as Cowslip & Primrose— Prof. Buckman experiments on Plants are the most hostile to *that part of [interl] my theory *of selection [del] which attributes so much to selection— (so Orchis case?) though favourable to change of some kind— shows effect direct of excess of food Ch 6. CD refers to Buckman’s belief that many agricultural plants usually thought to be distinct species were really only variants that had arisen as a result of cultivation and the differences in fertility of various soils.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Buckman, James. 1857. Report on the experimental plots in the Botanical Garden of the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester. Report of the 27th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Dublin, pp. 200–15.


Asks JB to obtain information about pigeons.

Inquires where his article has been published ["On the discovery of Cnicus tuberosus at Avebury, Wilts.", Ann. & Mag. Nat. Hist. 2d ser. 20 (1857): 337–9].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Buckman
Sent from
Source of text
Dorset County Museum (tipped into Origin 1st ed.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2151,” accessed on 28 January 2022,

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