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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   4 August [1866]1

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

Aug 4th.

My dear Sir

I am much obliged for all you have done for me, and it would be a pleasure if I could do anything for you in return.2

I am sincerely sorry to hear that your health has failed; with your numerous occupations this must be a severe trial.

I like the woodcuts much; but in the four enclosed, I should be glad of an alteration. Firstly in the fantail the tips of the tailfeathers seem to curl over: surely this is wrong? & if possible, which I fear is not the case, I should like it corrected.3 I wish the lower part of the neck in the three cocks’ heads to be cut away, but not abruptly, so that the lower edge should appear nearly as at present.4 I am sure the cuts will look better this way. I also want the cloud at the back of the comb of the Polish & Hamburgh to be greatly reduced or wholly removed. The block to be cut close on the top & bottom so that type may go above & below.5 Also do you not think that the top of the comb in the Hamburgh looks unnatural with so many & sharp little cones.6 When these corrections are made, I should like to see proofs; & the blocks can then be sent to Mr Murray with the account; & I will write to him.7 Please tell me the name of the artist, for I have forgotten, as I wish to state in text by whom they are done, under your superintendance.8

I had noticed with interest Mr. Hewitt’s account of the bantam hen, & therefore you could not have pleased me more than by letting me see the feathers.9 I observe they are saffron coloured, which is not stated, I think, in the original account. I should like to see, but not to keep, the photograph when made. I should like to see the barred feathers of Gallus various; for I have quoted you about pencilling in crosses, & I presume this is something of the same kind.10

I will correct all the references, though they are very numerous, to the New edit. of the Poultry book.11 I will remember your kind offer about correcting proofs, but hope to have no occasion to avail myself of it. I expect to go to press towards the close of the year.12

My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 2 August 1866.
The enclosure has not been found. The English fantail pigeon is illustrated in Variation 1: 147.
Engravings of the heads of male Spanish, Hamburgh, and Polish fowls appear in Variation 1: 226, 228, and 229, respectively.
See Variation 1: 228–9.
CD described the comb of the Hamburgh fowl as covered with numerous small points (Variation 2: 227).
CD’s publisher was John Murray.
The drawing for the pigeon and fowl engravings was done by Luke Wells (see Correspondence vol. 13, letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 April [1865] and [7 April 1865]). He is acknowledged for some of the drawings, along with Tegetmeier for selecting the birds to be illustrated, in Variation 1: 135 n. 6.
Edward Hewitt’s account of the Sebright hen (Hewitt 1864) is discussed in Variation 2: 54. See letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 2 August 1866 and n. 2.
See letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 2 August 1866 and n. 4; CD refers to Gallus varius. CD cited Tegetmeier in Variation for information on ‘the frequent appearance, in mongrel fowls, of pencilled or transversely-barred feathers, like those common to many gallinaceous birds’ (Variation 2: 40).
CD sent the manuscript of Variation to Murray in December 1866 (see letter to John Murray, 21 and 22 December [1866]).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Hewitt, Edward. 1864. Hen pheasant assuming the plumage of the male bird. Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener n.s. 6 (1864): 37–8.

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


Comments on pigeon and poultry woodcuts.

Observations and queries on poultry.

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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5176,” accessed on 29 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14