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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. C. Eyton   4 October [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Oct 4th

Dear Eyton

Very many thanks for your kind note.— I was very sorry not to be at Leeds, & I should have particularly liked to have seen you;2 but in fact my health will by no means stand so much excitement.

What a splendid collection of skeletons you have, & how many good irons you have in the fire, for I see that you are, also, going to publish a Book on the Oyster.—3

I will carefully keep your letter with a list of the skeletons: at some future time the loan of some of them would be invaluable to me. I have done domestic Pigeons-skeletons, & a monograph on their history, variation &c &c.— I am so ignorant, that I do not even know the names of many bones; & I am going to take them soon to Falconer to get a little rudimentary knowledge.4 My notes are only 4 or 5 pages, & if I had them copied out, would you object to read them & give me your criticisms: I could, also, easily send the few bones, which show any diversity, & then you could best judge of accuracy of my few remarks. But I must first get a lesson from Faloner as soon as he returns to town.

My plans of publication are all changed, for owing to advice of Lyell & Hooker I am preparing an abstract of all my conclusions to be published as small book or read before Linn: Society, & this will for some months stop my regular work. The work is too great for me, but if I live I will finish it: indeed three-fourth is done.

With every good wish & my thanks, believe me, dear Eyton | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin.

As you are a great nimrod,5 I wish you could tell me what colours of sire & dam will ever throw a dun coloured horse. By dun I mean a cream-colour mixed with brown or bay. I have asked scores of people, & cannot find out. Nor can I find out what is colour of a colt when born, which will turn into a Dun.—6

As I am asking questions I will ask, did you ever see Ass with a double shoulder-stripe on both shoulders? Col. Ham. Smith says he has heard of such.—7


Dated by the reference to Eyton’s papers delivered at the 1858 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (see n. 2, below).
Eyton gave two talks before the meeting of the British Association in Leeds, 22–9 September 1858. In one he proposed a new arrangement for classifying certain birds and in the other he illustrated the embryonic development of the oyster. Abstracts of both were printed in Report of the 28th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Leeds, Transactions of the sections, pp. 122, 123.
Eyton’s museum on his estate at Eyton, Shropshire, contained one of the finest collections of the skins and skeletons of birds in Europe (DNB). Eyton may have sent CD a copy of the second part of his privately printed catalogue of the collection (Eyton 1856–58). CD already possessed a copy of the first part. It is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection—CUL. CD also refers to Eyton’s study of the development and economic management of oysters, published later in the year (Eyton 1858). See letter to T. C. Eyton, 4 August [1858].
CD visited Hugh Falconer in October 1858 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 20 [October 1858]). CD discussed the osteological differences between skeletons of various breeds of pigeons in Variation 1: 162–7.
‘A great hunter; one who is fond of, or given to, hunting’ (OED).
See Correspondence vol. 6, letters to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 13 June 1857], to Laurence Edmondston, 2 August [1857], and to Hugh Falconer, 23 November 1857. CD later wrote that: ‘I have endeavoured, but with poor success, to discover whether duns … are ever produced from the crossing of two horses, neither of which are duns. Most persons to whom I have applied believe that one parent must be a dun’ (Variation 1: 59).
For CD’s questions on the stripes of donkeys, see CD’s note transcribed following the letter to James Egan, 8 November [1858]. The stripes on donkeys and horses are discussed in CD’s species book (Natural selection, pp. 328–32) and in Origin, pp.163–7. CD cited C. H. Smith 1841 at length in this discussion. There is a copy of the book in the Darwin Library–CUL.


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

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Eyton, Thomas Campbell. 1856. A catalogue of the species of birds in his possession. Wellington, Salop.

Eyton, Thomas Campbell. 1858. A history of the oyster and the oyster fisheries. London.

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.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

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.

Smith, Charles Hamilton. 1841. Horses. The Equidæ or genus Equus of authors. Vol. 12 of Jardine, William, ed., The naturalist’s library. 40 vols. Edinburgh. 1833-43.

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


Comments on TCE’s skeletons.

Must get advice from Hugh Falconer on names of some bones.

Preparing his abstract [Origin].

Asks about colours of horses and stripes on asses.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Campbell Eyton
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.158)
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2333,” accessed on 2 April 2023,

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