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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Tegetmeier   [after 4 August 1866]1

⁠⟨⁠two lines excised⁠⟩⁠

My dear Sir.

I am glad that you like the cuts generally,—with respect to the alterations; the fantail I am certain can be altered so as to remove the effect to which you object2

There will be no difficulty in reducing the blocks of the cocks heads. The Hamburgh was a genuine portrait of a bird that I obtained for Mr Wells to draw, but I will have the extreme regularity a little broken, if possible.3

The name of ⁠⟨⁠two lines excised⁠⟩⁠4

The bantam feathers that you returned were from a golden sebright or laced hen and consequently would have the saffron colour— You allude to the original account of Mr Hewitt respecting this hen, but I do not at the present recollect having seen it, can you tell me if you saw it in print—5

If the skulls of the polish in the last number of the poultry book would be of any use to your new volume I could easily supply you with electrotypes to print from6

Many thanks for your kindness in correcting the references, irrespective altogether of its being of great benefit to me personally, I think it is desirable, as references to a volume that cannot be seen, are not of any great value7

I enclose the feathers of the cross bred wild Gallus— I took them myself from the living bird in the Zoological Gardens some years since—. The neck (hackle) feathers are very curious—8

I have no doubt of being able to send you the amended proofs of the blocks in a few days at the farthest.— I have been staying in your drysoiled and sunny county for a few days and am better in consequence

I have just looked for the Gallus varius? cross bred feathers and find also some of a half bred Sonnerat—which I enclose, thinking possibly you may like to see them; they also were taken by myself from the living bird, but I have no doubt you saw Dr Salters paper respecting them in the Natural History Review.—9

I am afraid I weary you with my hobby, and will conclude | Yours very truly | W B Tegetmeier

CD annotations

4.4 can you … print] double scored blue crayon
5.1 If … book] double scored blue crayon
7.1 I enclose … Gallus— ] double scored blue crayon
9.2 a half bred Sonnerat] double scored blue crayon


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 4 August [1866].
The reference is to Luke Wells. See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 4 August [1866], n. 8.
In his letter of 4 August [1866], CD had asked Tegetmeier for the name of the artist, Luke Wells, who had drawn the pigeon and fowl specimens for Variation.
Illustrations of two skulls, one from a golden-spangled Polish hen, the other from a silver-spangled Polish cock, were published in The poultry book (Tegetmeier 1867, p. 174). Tegetmeier had written a short paper on the skulls of Polish fowl (Tegetmeier 1856).
Tegetmeier had asked CD to change the references in Variation from an earlier and incomplete edition of The poultry book to his own edition (Tegetmeier 1867). See letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 2 August 1866 and n. 5.
In his discussion of reversion in Variation, CD described the neck-hackles and tail-feathers of a hybrid between the common fowl and Gallus varius, received from Tegetmeier, as transversely striped with dark metallic blue and grey, ‘a character which could not have been derived from either immediate parent’ (Variation 2: 40).
In Variation, CD described the feathers of hybrids raised in the Zoological Gardens in Regent’s Park, London, between a male Gallus sonneratii and a red game-hen, noting that the feathers exhibited the character of those of G. sonneratii, but with much smaller horny laminae (Variation 1: 234 n. 13). CD remarked that G. sonneratii had once been thought to be the ancestral stock of all domestic varieties, but that numerous crossing experiments made at the Zoological Gardens between G. sonneratii and other breeds had resulted in offspring that were almost entirely infertile. On the basis of this and other evidence, CD concluded that the species was not the parent of any domestic breed (Variation 1: 233–4). The crossing experiments had been overseen by Samuel James Augustus Salter. CD cited Salter’s paper on the subject, published in the Natural History Review (S. J. A. Salter 1863; see Variation 1: 234 n. 15). For more on CD’s interest in the bird, see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 27 February [1865] and n. 3.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 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.

Salter, Samuel James Augustus. 1863. Note on the fertility, inter se, of hybrids of different species of the genus Gallus. Natural History Review n.s. 3: 276–9.

Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1856. On the remarkable peculiarities existing in the skulls of the feather-crested variety of the domestic fowl, now known as the Polish. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 24: 366–8.

Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1867. The poultry book: comprising the breeding and management of profitable and ornamental poultry, their qualities and characteristics; to which is added ‘The standard of excellence in exhibition birds’, authorized by the Poultry Club. London and New York: George Routledge & Sons.

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


Alterations to the woodcuts of poultry for Variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 74
Physical description
ALS 4pp inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5180,” accessed on 26 September 2022,

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