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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   13 September [1859]1

Down Bromley Kent.

Sept. 13th

My dear Sir

I wrote a line this morning to say that the Cock2 would be at Mr Cummins3 on Thursday morning. I now write to thank you much for the loan of this splendid Bird & all your former assistance.— Perhaps you would like a brief report of present results; but the result would have been far more curious had I been enabled to have kept all the eggs separate, so as to have known the mother of each; as it is I know the mother only of some of them.—

The great majority are black, but some of them quite white, & some white with only 2 or 3 black feathers; so that the male has not at all exclusively transmitted black plumage.— The tuft on head has been strongly transmitted by Polish & white Silk Fowl. The black skin & dusky comb has been strongly transmitted by the latter, but in no case the silky plumage.— It is curious how much plumage has altered during growth with some of the Fowls.— But the most curious fact for me is that a young cock from White Game Hen which was black has lately assumed reddish neck Hackles & light yellowish red feathers on back.—

Another more striking example of this fact, is given by a gray cock from white Silk Hen; which was jet black in the down & in first plumage but is now getting splendid red Hackles on neck & on back over tail; so that it will make in this first generation some approach to wild Gallus.— This is good case as, I believe the Silk Breed is a very ancient & true breed in the East.—4 I shall be very curious to see result next year. This little experiment has amused me.5

I cannot say much for my health: in about a fortnight I hope to start for some Hydropathic Establishment & stay there several weeks & see if I can anyhow get a little stronger.— My unlucky Book will be published 1st. week in November.—

With thanks.— | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


Dated by the relationship to the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 5 August [1859].
See letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 24 December [1858] and 5 August [1859].
Mr Cummin has not been identified.
See Variation 1: 230 and 2: 67.
CD’s results were summarised in Variation 1: 240–3 and 2: 40. Tegetmeier repeated the experiment of crossing the Spanish cock and Silk hen and produced results similar to CD’s (Variation 1: 242).


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


Reports the results of some poultry crossing experiments; comments on transmission of different features.

"My unlucky Book [Origin] will be published 1st week in November."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2491,” accessed on 1 December 2021,

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