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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   22 March [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

March 22d

My dear Sir

I ought to have answered your last note sooner; but I have been very busy.2 How wonderfully successful you have been in breeding Pouters! you have good right to be proud of your accuracy of eye & judgment. I am in the thick of Poultry; having just commenced & shall be truly grateful for the skulls, if you can send them by any conveyance to the Nag’s Head next Thursday.3 If too busy, will you send them whenever you can, addressed, thus

C. Darwin Esq

care of Mr Mitchell

Per S.E Railway Postman

Bromley, Kent

You ask about Vermilion wax: positively it was not in state of comb, but in solid bits & cakes, which were thrown with other rubbish not far from my Hives.—4 You can make any use of fact, you like.—5 Combs could be concentrically & variously coloured & dates recorded by giving for few days wax darkly coloured with vermilion & indigo, & I daresay other substances.

You ask about my crossed Fowls; & this leads me to make a proposition to you, which I hope cannot be offensive to you.— I trust you know me too well to think that I would propose anything objectionable to the best of my judgment. The case is this. For my object of treating Poultry, I must give sketch of several breeds with remarks on various points. I do not feel strong on subject. Now when my M.S. is fairly copied in an excellent hand-writing; would you read it over, which would take you at most an hour or two, & make comments in pencil on it; & accept, like a Barrister, a fee, we will say of a couple of guineas.— This would be a great assistance to me; specially if you would allow me to put note, stating that you, a distinguished judge & Fancier, had read it over. I would state that you doubted or concurred as each case might be: of course striking out what you were sure was incorrect. There would be little new in my M.S. to you; but if by chance you used any of my facts or conclusions, before I published, I shd wish you to state that they were on my authority; otherwise I shall be accused of stealing from you.— There will be little new except that perhaps I have consulted some out of the way books, & have corresponded with some good authorities.

Tell me frankly what you think of this; but unless you will oblige me by accepting remuneration, I cannot & will not give you such trouble.— I have little that several points will arise which will require investigation, as I care for many points disregarded by Fanciers; & according to any time thus spent you will, I trust, allow me to make remuneration. I hope that you will grant me this favour.—6

There is one assistance which I will now venture to beg of you, viz to get me, if you can, another specimen of old white Angora Rabbit. I want it dead for Skeleton; & not knocked on Head.7 Secondly I see in Cottage Gardener (March 19th. p. 375) there are (impure) Half-lops with one ear quite upright & shorter than the other lopped ear. I much want a dead one.— Baker cannot get one.—8 Baily is looking out;9 but I want two specimens. Can you assist me, if you meet any Rabbit fancier? I have had rabbit with one ear more lopped than the other; but I want one with one ear quite upright & shorter, & the other quite long & lopped.—10

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is provided by the reference to CD’s study of fowl for his work on Variation (see ‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Tegetmeier’s letter has not been found.
Tegetmeier had agreed to lend his extensive collection of the skulls of various breeds of fowl for CD’s study of the osteological differences between domesticated and wild poultry. The carrier that operated between Down and London used the Nag’s Head Inn, Borough, as the point of collection.
Tegetmeier had previously conducted experiments on the construction of bees’ cells in which bees were provided with various colours of wax (see Tegetmeier 1858). His intention to carry out further experiments was mentioned in Tegetmeier 1859, p. 35, but he does not appear subsequently to have published the results of any systematic experiments on bee-cell construction.
There is an entry in CD’s Account book (Down House MS) on 31 March 1861 that reads: ‘Tegetmeier 10s Science.’ This probably pertains to specimens Tegetmeier sent to CD (see n. 7, below). A further entry on 13 June records that CD paid him the sum of £5 5s. ‘for scientific assistance’. Tegetmeier’s assistance in reading CD’s manuscript is acknowledged in Variation 1: 225 n.
Tegetmeier sent CD the rabbit as requested. See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 28 March [1861].
Either Samuel C. or Charles N. Baker, poultry dealers in Chelsea. Over the past few years, CD had obtained different varieties of fowls from them.
John Baily was a poulterer and dealer in live birds with a shop in Berkeley Square, London.
In Variation 1: 119, CD stated that he had examined the skulls of three half-lop rabbits. He was interested in learning whether differences in the size and musculature of the ear had any influence on the structure of the skull. He found this to be so, calling the case ‘a remarkable case of correlation of growth’. He went on to state (Variation 1: 119): Who would have surmised that by keeping an animal during many generations under confinement, and so leading to the disuse of the muscles of the ears, and by continually selecting individuals with the longest and largest ears, he would thus indirectly have affected almost every suture in the skull and the form of the lower jaw!


Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1859. Cells of the honey bee. Transactions of the Entomological Society n.s. 5 (1858–61): Proceedings, pp. 34–5.

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


Asks whether WBT will read over his MS sketch on poultry when done.

Wants rabbit specimens.

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 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3095,” accessed on 21 March 2023,

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