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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Blyth   [8 January 1858]1

–will cover she-Donkeys readily; but not so always the converse. The famous Ld Clive,2 you will remember, had a Zebra mare which rejected the advances of a Jack-ass; when his ldship hit upon the notable expedient of painting the latter with Zebra-stripes, upon which the scruples of the lady Zebra were overcome! Well, suppose this Zebrified Jackass (or were it even otherwise harlequinized) had been put to a few Jenny Asses. Would the foals resulting from such intercourse exhibit an unusual amount of striping? The experiment might be tried also with mares, or even with bitches, Swine, &c. An affirmative result would certainly be most interesting, and be applicable too in procuring new varieties of colouring in various animals.—

Among a lot of Jungle-fowls I saw yesterday was a cock without the white cheek-lappet; as I think always with those from the eastern side of the Bay of Bengal; but this was a Bengal specimen. I bought this morning a cock & hen of the frizzled race of fowls. In Dr. Livingstone’s work, you will find that he met with such in Africa, and fancied them to be the result of an effort of nature to adapt themselves to a hot climate!3 As if the fowl was not aboriginally an inhabitant of torrid climes? I should like you to see my article on ‘British Birds in India’ in the ‘Calcutta Review’:4 that on Indian Pigeons5 I will send you by Sir W. Wiseman.6 It may contain one or two suggestions for you to follow out— The former article was published some two or three Nos. back in our Calcutta Quarterly; and of course you will be able to see it at the India-house,7 & probably elsewhere. There is much in it which I know would interest you.

As I write, a royal salute is firing in honour of the arrival of the glorious garrison of Lucknow, i.e. the wounded officers, & the ladies and children.8 How amazingly the force of character of our countrymen & countrywomen has been evinced in the course of this terrible struggle! The wonderful superiority of the European to the Asiatic, from the days of Xenophon and Alexander even unto now! Against such overwhelming odds, nobody here ever conceived the possibility of the insurrection proving successful,—this grand struggle of barbarism against a higher civilization ennobled by the application of all the sciences.

Ever Sincerely Yours, E Blyth—

CD annotations

crossed pencil
double scored brown crayon
2.8 that on … Wiseman.] double scored brown crayon
double scored brown crayon
‘Letter dated Jan 1857’9 added pencil
crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘Jan 8 1858’pencil; ‘15’10 brown crayon, circled brown crayon


The date is taken from CD’s annotation. It is not known whether this was the date of receipt or whether CD copied Blyth’s date from the missing portion of the letter.
Robert Clive was governor of Bengal, 1757–60.
Livingstone 1857, p. 407. CD read this work later in the year (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 March [1858]).
Blyth 1857a. CD cited this article in Natural selection, p. 311.
Blyth 1857b. A copy of the article is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
William Saltonstall Wiseman was a captain in the British navy from 1854 to his retirement in 1870.
The headquarters of the East India Company in Leadenhall Street, London. The company remained in the premises after the government of India was handed over to the crown in 1858.
The siege of the British residency in Lucknow during the Indian mutiny was broken on 22 November 1857, although the city itself was not recaptured by British forces until March 1858 (Annual Register (1857 and 1858)). Blyth was writing from Calcutta, where he was employed as the curator of the museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.
This letter has not been found.
CD numbered Blyth’s letters in order of receipt. See Correspondence vols. 5 and 6 for Blyth’s previous letters to CD.


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

Livingstone, David. 1857. Missionary travels and researches in South Africa; including a sketch of sixteen years’ residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast; thence across the Continent, down the river Zambesi, to the Eastern Ocean. London: John Murray.

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.


Zebra-striped asses.

Markings of a Bengal jungle cock.

Refers to some of his own articles on birds in India.

Reports the arrival of the "glorious garrison of Lucknow". The "wonderful superiority of the European to the Asiatic" made the success of the insurrection inconceivable.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Blyth
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 98: A144–5
Physical description
4pp inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2200,” accessed on 1 December 2021,

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