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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Skeffington Poole1   13 October [1858]2

Down Bromley Kent

Oct 13th


I have received a most obliging communication from Col. Curtis in India on the colours & stripes of native horses, on which subject I happen to be, as a naturalist particularly interested.3 He informs me that you probably know more on subject that any man living, & he tells me that I may use his name as an introduction, & I may add as an apology for the liberty, which I take in ad-dressing you.— He thinks that you would be so kind as to give me any information in your power.—

I have accordingly ventured to enclose some questions, & it will, I hope, not cost you much trouble to add to each a few words in answer.—4 I do not suppose that it is in the least likely that you can answer the greater number, but I have thought that I might as well ask all that I wanted to know.— It is, also, quite likely that your memory may not serve to answer positively, though when on the spot you might have been enabled to do so. The questions will probably appear very trivial, but they all grounded on some motive.—

I trust that you will excuse the liberty, which I take, & I shall feel extremely much obliged for any information, however small.5

Sir | I have the honour | to remain | Your obliged servant | Charles Darwin


The recipient is identified by the contents of the letter. Skeffington Poole had been a lieutenant-colonel in the first regiment light cavalry, Bombay. He was mentioned by CD in Variation as an expert on Indian horses ‘who has had ample opportunities for observation’ (Variation 2: 43).
Dated by the relationship to the letter to W. E. Darwin, [30 October 1858].
Possibly James Gray William Curtis, who had retired from the Bengal army in 1854 (Modern English biography). He was cited by CD in Variation 1: 58. CD had been seeking information on the colouring of Indian horses for some time. In 1857 he sent questions on the subject to India via Hugh Falconer, but apparently received no reply. See Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Hugh Falconer, 23 November 1857.
The enclosure has not been found, but it probably repeated the questions raised in the enclosure with the letter to Hugh Falconer, 23 November 1857 (Correspondence vol. 6).
CD cited information from Poole in Origin, pp. 163, 164, and 166.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Modern English biography: Modern English biography, containing many thousand concise memoirs of persons who have died since the year 1850. By Frederick Boase. 3 vols. and supplement (3 vols.). Truro, Cornwall: the author. 1892–1921.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

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


Asks about Indian horses. Encloses questions.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Skeffington Poole
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2152,” accessed on 29 February 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7