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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Bernhard Tegetmeier   27 February [1865]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Feb 27.

My dear Sir

In a week’s time I shall be ready to correct my M.S. on Fowls. Will you therefore have the kindness to return soon this M.S., which you have kept so long for me, with any corrections or errors pointed out.2 You will remember that I have asked your permission to state that the M.S. has had the benefit of your supervision, & I hope you will grant me this favour.3 In the course of a few weeks I shall put a number of specimens into the engraver’s hands & as soon as they are finished I will return your skulls, which owing to my ill-health, I have retained for so unreasonable a period.4

Will you be so good as to register the M.S., when returned, & as there is no reason to put you to the most trifling expense I beg permission to enclose stamps.

Can you grant me one small favour, that is to enclose 2 or 3 spangled feathers of Hamburgs or any other breed, or more particularly any dark-tipped feathers of the Game breed as I want to compare them with some curious tipped feathers which have been sent me.5

Believe me my dear Sir | yours sincerely | Charles Darwin

I hope that you are well & that all things go on pretty well with you.— My health is better, but I much fear I shall ever remain that most wretched creature, a confirmed invalid.—6


The year is established by the reference to correcting the chapter on fowls for Variation (see n. 2, below).
Fowls are the subject of chapter 7 of Variation (Variation 1: 225–75). Having written the first draft of his manuscript on fowls in May 1861, CD sent it to Tegetmeier for review (Correspondence vol. 9, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 14 June [1861]). In November 1864 CD had started revising the earlier chapters of Variation; he continued working on the chapters on domestic animals until 22 April 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II, and this volume, ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix II)).
Tegetmeier’s assistance with the manuscript, and his help in obtaining information and specimens, are acknowledged in Variation 1: 225 n.
Tegetmeier had sent skulls of wild and domesticated fowls for CD to examine in April 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9, letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 25 February [1861] and 14 April [1861]). CD may have returned some of the specimens in 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, postscript to letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, [before 21 December 1864]), but he did not return the last of them until February 1867, retaining some so that they could be drawn as illustrations for Variation (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 9 July [1866], and letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 January [1867] and 5 March [1867] (Calendar nos. 5347 and 5431)). In Variation 1: 260, CD wrote that nearly half of the fifty-three skulls he examined were lent to him owing to ‘the kindness of Mr. Tegetmeier’. For the published engravings of some of the fowl skulls, see Variation 1: 261–5.
CD had asked Abraham Dee Bartlett to send from the Zoological Gardens the ‘tipped’ feathers of Gallus sonneratii (grey junglefowl or Sonnerat’s junglefowl), a wild species found in India. CD later thanked him for the feathers of the ‘Gallus’ (see letters to A. D. Bartlett, 30 January [1865] and 14 February [1865]). In Variation 1: 233–4, CD described the neck and loin feathers, or hackles, of G. sonneratii, and noted that he had examined the feathers of a cross between G. sonneratii and a ‘red game-hen’. CD was interested in determining which wild species domestic breeds had descended from; as part of this effort, he described variations in Gallus feathers in Variation 1: 239–45 (see also Variation 1: 249–50). At one time, CD had several fowl breeds at Down House with which he performed crossing experiments; these included a spangled Hamburgh and a white game breed (see Correspondence vol. 7, letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 21 [February 1859] and 9 April [1859]; see also J. Secord 1985, p. 526).
For CD’s health in 1864 and early 1865, see the letter to Charles Lyell, 22 January [1865] and n. 16, and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 9 February [1865].


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

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

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


Wants his fowl MS.

Will shortly return WBT’s skulls.

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
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4776,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13