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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   1 March [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

March 1

My dear Sir

Many thanks for your kindness about the skulls & for answering me about Ferguson.—2 The account of the Hybrids is in his Poultry book & very obscurely written. I am always loth to believe that a man lies, yet I can hardly believe that he made so many crosses. No doubt hybrids which are generally sterile will sometimes breed, yet his account is very incredible. I began to suspect the whole Book to be a pure fiction, but having to write to Mr Brent about Rabbits, I asked him;3 & he says he knows nothing of him, except that he offered a lot of coops & aviaries for sale, which shows at least that probably he did keep Birds.

I shall be curious to hear about tails of Malay Hens; & if 10 be true number, it would be well to look at Cock.— Will you ask another question for me, as I daresay you will see at Preston Rabbit fanciers;4 viz whether E. S. Delamere (ie Dixon)5 is correct in saying that in Half-lops, the ear which hangs down is longer & broader than that which sticks up?6

I find my rabbit skeletons, which I am now at work at so tough a job, that I shall not begin Fowls quite so soon as I expected.

I may mention a trifling little fact which has surprised me: I threw away somewhere about the premises 2 or 3 years ago some wax coloured with vermilion, & I find that a swarm which built its combs last summer must have somehow discovered a lump, for the combs are extensively & prettily coloured with vermilion.—7

With sincere thanks | Yours truly | C. Darwin


The year is provided by the reference to CD’s work on rabbits and fowls for Variation, which he carried out early in 1861. See ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix II).
The reference is to George Ferguson, author of a manual on poultry (Ferguson 1854). See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 25 February [1861].
The letter to Bernard Peirce Brent has not been found. See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 25 February [1861], n. 6.
Tegetmeier was to be one of the judges of fowls and pigeons at the Preston poultry show, to be held on 6 and 7 March 1861 (Cottage Gardener 25 (1861): 357).
Delamer 1854, p. 136. An annotated copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL. Eugene Sebastian Delamer was the pen name of Edmund Saul Dixon.
Tegetmeier apparently did verify this description. CD included the statement in Variation, citing Delamer 1854 as one of his sources and reproducing an illustration of the half-lop rabbit taken from this work (Variation 1: 107–8).
When CD was studying the formation of bees’ cells in 1858, Tegetmeier had recommended providing the bees with coloured wax to investigate their manner of cell construction. See Correspondence vol. 7, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 8 [June 1858]. CD acknowledged Tegetmeier’s assistance in Origin, pp. 228–30. See also letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 22 March [1861].


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

Delamer, Eugene Sebastian [Edmund Saul Dixon]. 1854. Pigeons and rabbits, in their wild, domestic, & captive states. London: G. Routledge.

Ferguson, George. 1854. Ferguson’s illustrated series of rare and prize poultry, including comprehensive essays upon all classes of domestic fowl. London: n.p.

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.

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


Thanks for skulls

and information about Ferguson.

Is working on rabbits’ skeletons.

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
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3075,” accessed on 25 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9