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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Bernard Peirce Brent    [after August 1856]1

I bred two here, they were dark blues with black bars and bred from black baldheaded Jacobins of the common english breed—2 though rather better than the common run, Red baldheaded Jacobins are by far the commonest colour than black baldheaded—that is those colours with white heads tails and flights—(juniors)

I am breeding mules from the canary and Goldfinch or Linnet etc3 it is nec-essary to have the ⁠⟨⁠hen⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠d⁠⟩⁠omesticated or she will rarely breed in a cage consequently it is most usual to put a cock Goldfinch &c with a hen Canary— but mules are some times bred from a cock Canary and a hen of some other kind that has been bred up tame from the nest. a friend of mine at Calais used to breed mules from a cock canary and hen Green linnet so reared—

I have bred mules fr⁠⟨⁠om⁠⟩⁠ Goldfinches, Linnets, Green linnets or Green finches, Siskins or aberdevines and a redpoll with hen canaries—

I have rarely tried, and never succeeded with a cock canary and other hen birds though it is not the cock canaries fault. If you are at any time getting German books again4 would it be troubling you to get for me Herr Pistors, work Der Hühnerhof—5

⁠⟨⁠I⁠⟩⁠ am ⁠⟨⁠s⁠⟩⁠orry to hear Mrs Darwin is so unwell. hoping for her speedy recovery6

I am my dear Sir | Yours much obliged | B P Brent.

To C Darwin Esqr.

P.S. Is Mr. Tegetmeier ill?7 I will forward the Cottage Gardeners for June as soon as my Father returns the last number8 BPB—

CD annotations

1.1 I bred … (juniors) 1.5] crossed pencil
2.3 consequently … nest. 2.5] crossed pencil
3.1 I have … BPB— 7.2] crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘17’9 brown crayon


The date is inferred from the reference to CD having recently studied German books on pigeons and poultry (see n. 4, below). Although Brent wrote to CD in October 1857 giving further details concerning hybrids between canaries and other birds (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from B. P.Brent, 23 October 1857), the reference to Emma Darwin being ‘so unwell’ suggests an earlier date (see n. 6, below).
CD began to study pigeons in 1855, acquiring all the major breeds, comparing their external characters and anatomical relations, and analysing the results of crosses both inter se and among different breeds. He had met Brent late in 1855 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. D. Fox,3 January [1856]). CD thanked him in Variation 1: 132 n. and 225 n. for having assisted his study of domesticated pigeons and fowls.
CD discussed the difficulty in obtaining hybrids between canaries and different kinds of finches in Natural selection, pp. 429–30, 431–2, and 438; and in Origin, p. 252.
CD consulted a number of works by German naturalists on breeding pigeons, ducks, and geese and on the birds of Germany in July and August 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 20; and vol. 6, letters to E. W. V. Harcourt, 19 August [1856] and 23 August [1856]).
Pistor 1831b. CD owned a copy of C. M. Wilhelm Pistor’s manual of pigeon and dove breeding (Pistor 1831a). His annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Emma Darwin, aged 48, gave birth to her tenth child on 6 December 1856.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier was a mutual friend of Brent and CD.
Brent was a frequent contributor to the Cottage Gardener. CD subscribed to this journal between October 1855 and February 1856; his copies are in the Darwin Library–CUL.
The number of one of CD’s portfolios of notes on hybridism.


On his breeding of Jacobin pigeons. How reciprocal crosses to produce mules work among canaries, goldfinches, linnets, and green linnets.

Will soon forward copies of Cottage Gardener for June.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bernard Peirce Brent
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160.2: 298
Physical description
ALS 4pp inc & damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2850,” accessed on 23 May 2022,

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