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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Campbell Eyton   12 November 1833


Novr 12th 1833

Dear Darwin

I have been writing to you for some time, and having just heard from your sister what your direction is have now set to work in good earnest to write to you. Hope has been very ill and is not now much better but I think that he fancies himself much worse than he really is. he has not done much in the insect way since he returned from Germany nor indeed have I, but I have been working very hard at the birds both English and foreign of English one I believe that I have one of the finest collections in this country. I have also made great progress in the anatomy particularly in that of fish birds & animals of the two latter I have now near a hundred skeletons some rather valuable ones. I had a letter from Yarrel the other day who gave me an account of some new birds discovered in England viz Alpine or White bellied swift, Carolina Cuckoo of Latham1 and the red legged falcon F. rufipes of which I have been lucky enough to obtain a pair together with several other rare birds among which are the snowy & Eagle owl from Orkney. Sir Rowland Hill is making a collection of birds and animals both alive and dead at Hawkstone and as he spares no expence I should think that he would have a good one. I have several new and undescribed tracheæ and muscles of voice of birds of which I shall one of these first days publish some short account.2 Jennings work on the vertebrates is not yet out and is not expected before next year it is to be on a much larger scale than was originally intended and to be called a manual.3 Selby is going to publish a new work on birds4 after the arrangement of Vigors.5 A splendid work is going on by Gould, the birds of Europe folio coloured plates.6 he has also published an excellent monograph on the Toucans7 with a folio plate of each species which work I have been expensive enough to take but as I have been offered more than cost price for them since I am on the right side. I saw as I believe I told you before your sisters and father this morning the latter of whom has had a fit of the gout but has now recovered and the whole party are looking very well. I do not know that there is much gossip going on there now except that John Hill is to be married to Miss Kenyon of Pradoe which is I believe all settled or nearly so. I wish with all my heart that I was with you and had been with you all the time but next to that I wish to see you here in merry England again as I sandly want some body to talk to about nat his who cares about it as very few of those who profess to do so either know or in their hearts care one pin about it. I have trained some peregrine falcons to catch birds which is very good fun. I do not ask you to write to me because I think that you may be better engaged but should you have a few minutes to spare I think that I need scarcely tell you that I shall be most happy to hear from you if you collect any skins beware of the insects send them to the care of some body who will take care of them and open the cases otherwise you will have very little chance of finding any thing but a few feathers and beaks & legs remaining when you return I know of two or three collections which have been sent from India of which this has been the fate. Wishing you all health and happiness I remain | yours very truly | Thos C Eyton


No separate publication on the trachea and voice muscles of birds has been identified; however, Eyton did employ his study of the trachea (and skeleton) as a basis for a new classification of ducks (see Eyton 1836, pp. 72–4). The concept involved was spelled out in more detail in Eyton 1838. Eyton’s emphasis on internal organs was novel in bird taxonomy.
Probably a reference to volume two, Water birds (1833) of Selby [1818–]34.
Nicholas Aylward Vigors was an advocate of William Sharp Macleay’s quinary system. Eyton probably refers to Vigors 1825.


Eyton, Thomas Campbell. 1836. A history of the rarer British birds. 2 pts. London.

Eyton, Thomas Campbell. 1838. A monograph on the Anatidae, or duck tribe. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman.

Gould, John. 1832–7. The birds of Europe. 5 vols. London.

Gould, John. 1834. A monograph of the Ramphastidae, or family of toucans. London: the author.

Jenyns, Leonard. 1835. A manual of British vertebrate animals. Cambridge and London.

Latham, John. 1781–1802. A general synopsis of birds. 3 vols. and 2 supplements. London.

Vigors, Nicholas Aylward. 1825. Observations on the natural affinities that connect the orders and families of birds. [Read 3 December 1823.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 14: 395–517.


Has been working hard on collecting English and foreign birds. Yarrell has written of new birds discovered in England.

News of work in progress by Leonard Jenyns, P. J. Selby, and John Gould.

Cautions CD to beware of insects when he sends any birds’ skins – otherwise there will be only feathers, beaks, and legs remaining when he returns.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Campbell Eyton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204: 118
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 228,” accessed on 21 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1