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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Tegetmeier   10 April 1865

Muswell Hill | London | N

Monday Ap 10 1865.

My dear Sir

The MSS arrived duly.—1 Your estimate of the extent to which my patience would be taxed in reading it is very erroneous. I devoured it at one sitting.—but I will not return it for a few days with your permission as I want to look over several parts again—.

Mr Wells will undertake the drawings at 30s/ each on the wood and will take the greatest pains to do them with extreme accuracy.—

The reason that the Smerle and Trumpeter are more correct than the others, is that I told him to draw the birds as they actually existed, whereas the Barb and Carrier were drawn when my eye was injured and I did not see the sketches and the Owners insisted on Mr Wells seeing with their eyes. consequently the engravings are not correct.— fancy standards instead of actual transcripts being given—2

Mr Wells is not a business man and would rather have nothing to do with the wood engravers account. but I will see the Engravers and get an estimate sent in to Mr Murray3

Wells drew for our old friend Mr Yarrell so he may be trusted.4

I enclose a reply from Mr Zurhorst (the most successful and largest breeder of White Cochins) respecting the colour of the Chicken in the down.5 I felt quite certain that Mr Brent was wrong.6 I do not know whether he ever had any white cochins. but I should regard Mr Zurhorsts letter as conclusive, he is a very intelligent gentleman and an ardent admirer of this breed—

Like every one else he seems proud to be able to assist you even in the slightest and asks me if I am enquiring for “the great writer on species. if so I prostrate myself as a persian to the rising sun” and he further says the replies are from his own experience.

I have made several notes on the Pigeon MSS but will not send them until I return the MSS

Believe me very truly Yours | W B Tegetmeier

Pray do not trouble to write or dictate a reply to this   it requires none and I shall be writing when I return the MSS


Tegetmeier refers to CD’s manuscript of the chapters on variation in domestic pigeon breeds for Variation (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, [7 April 1865]).
The reference is to drawings of pigeons by Luke Wells in the Field (see letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 27 March 1865 and n. 5, and letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 28 March [1865], and [7 April 1865] and n. 2).
In his letter to W. B. Tegetmeier of 6 April [1865], CD asked that Wells send an estimate of the cost of the engravings to John Murray. See letter from W. B. Tegetmeier to John Murray and R. F. Cooke, 17 April 1865.
William Yarrell had helped CD buy equipment for the Beagle voyage, and later assisted him with his pigeon work, advising him about breeds and providing introductions to dealers and breeders (for Yarrell’s correspondence with CD, see Correspondence vols. 1–5). Yarrell introduced CD to Tegetmeier in 1855 (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 31 August [1855], n. 2). Yarrell’s books on British birds and fishes were illustrated with hundreds of wood engravings made under his supervision (Yarrell 1836 and 1837–43).
The enclosure has not been found, but Frederick William Zurhorst was cited on the colour of the down feathers of Cochin chicks in Variation 1: 249: In white fowls of various breeds the chickens are uniformly yellowish white.... This is also generally the case with the chickens of white Cochins, but I hear from Mr. Zurhost [sic] that they are sometimes of a buff or oak colour, and that all those of this latter colour, which were watched, turned out males. See also n. 6, below.
Bernard Peirce Brent is acknowledged in Variation 1: 249 for sending CD information on the colour of down feathers in the chicks of a number of breeds of domestic fowl; CD’s correspondence with Brent on this subject has not been found. CD began studying variation in young fowl in 1855 (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. D. Fox, 14 October [1855]) in an attempt to shed light on the ancestral similarities and dissimilarities of well-established breeds. CD’s first letter to Tegetmeier on down feathers is dated 12 [May 1857] (Correspondence vol. 6); Tegetmeier probably made additional enquiries in the missing portion of his letter of [29 March – 7 April 1865] after reading CD’s manuscript on ‘Fowls’ (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, [7 April 1865] and n. 1).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 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.

Yarrell, William. 1836. A history of British fishes. 2 vols. London: John Van Voorst.


MS [of CD’s pigeon chapter] arrived safely.

Pigeon and poultry engravings [for Variation].

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Muswell Hill
Source of text
DAR 178: 67
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4808,” accessed on 22 June 2021,

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