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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Jeffries Wyman   3 December [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

Dec 3d

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for your kindness in writing to me & for sending me the pamphlets.1 If you can at any time find out about the relative size of the eyes of the Cave Rat, it would be a very great favour.—2

You cannot tell how much your paper on Gestation has interested me.3 How facts do beat the wildest imagination! The case of the frogs has interested me particularly, because some time since I read up what I could find on subject, thinking it a good case against my notions, from absence of transitional states; but now your case is something on the road. But the unfortunate male fish with the load of eggs in their mouths exceeds everything;4 & what a curious fact about the foreign eggs in the mouths of some.5 It is quite a pity that there are not fish of the same group with cuckoo-like habits; your fact would so well have explained how the habit might have arisen.—   Speaking of transitions Mr MacDonnell of Dublin writes to me that he has made some curious discoveries on the electrical organs of the Rays,6 being led thereto by trying to make the case of the Electrical organs, already so very difficult to me, still more unpleasant; but as I understand him his new facts help my views considerably.—

I am very glad to hear that you are collecting facts on the “Bull-dog” fish: I suppose & hope you will bring in about the Nâta cattle.7 I am now at work in bringing out a Corrected Edition of the “Origin” & I will do myself the great pleasure of sending you a copy when it is published: I could not resist giving briefly your Hog case.8 By the way I have received another analogous fact in case of Horses.—9

I once saw several years ago Dr Ackland, & was charmed with him: I am pleased to hear that he defended me against so redoubtable an opposer as Agassiz.10 I was rather surprised that the latter did not attack me with more skill.—

Will you kindly forward the enclosed to Prof. Silliman by any opportunity: the note is merely to thank him for so kindly writing & giving me information.—11

Pray believe me, My dear Sir, with sincere thanks & respect | Yours very truly. | C. Darwin

If you ever write again to me, can you refer me to any paper on the Rattle of Rattle-snake; I want to see some account of the tip of tail in the young before the skin has ever been moulted; & the relation of the rattle in the old to the act of moulting. I want to see what relation there is to the tail ⁠⟨⁠of⁠⟩⁠ Trigonocephalus, the habits of which I mention in my Journal as Vibrating its tail.—12


Wyman may have sent CD copies of his articles on the chimpanzee (Wyman 1849) and on unusual modes of gestation (Wyman 1859). Annotated copies of these, inscribed by Wyman, are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
In Wyman 1859 Wyman discussed the different ways in which some species of frogs and fish brood their eggs.
Wyman 1859, pp. 11–13. Here, Wyman described how in some species of the family Siluridae in Guiana the males stored eggs and young in their mouths. The passage discussing the point mentioned by CD is heavily scored in CD’s copy.
Wyman 1859, p. 13. CD marked the passage in his copy and added the comment: ‘What an odd parasitic Habit this might give rise to—’.
The letter from Robert M’Donnell has not been found. See letter to T. H. Huxley, 22 November [1860].
See letter to Asa Gray, 3 April [1860], and letter from Jeffries Wyman, [c. 15] September 1860.
Henry Wentworth Acland, Regius professor of medicine at Oxford, accompanied Prince Edward as his physician during a royal visit to Canada and the United States in the summer of 1860. The prince and his entourage visited Harvard University in October. It was presumably during an occasion on this visit that the criticism of Louis Agassiz was offered.
See letter to Benjamin Silliman Jr, 4 December [1860]. See also letter from Jeffries Wyman, [c. 15] September 1860.
See Journal of researches, p. 114. Wyman responded to CD’s inquiry in the letter from Jeffries Wyman, 8 January [1861] (Correspondence vol. 9).


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

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Wyman, Jeffries. 1849. A report on the cranium of the Engéena (Troglodytes gorilla). Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History 3 (1848–51): 179.

Wyman, Jeffries. 1859. On some unusual modes of gestation. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 27: 5–13.


"You cannot tell how much your paper on Gestation has interested me" ["On some unusual modes of gestation in batrachians and fishes", Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 27 (1859): 5–13].

Robert McDonnell has made curious discoveries on electrical organs of rays.

Is giving JW’s hog case in corrected ed. [3d] of Origin.

Would like account of tip of tail of young rattlesnake.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Jeffries Wyman
Sent from
Source of text
Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine (Jeffries Wyman papers H MS c 12)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3005,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8