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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Rivers   14 October 1866

Bonks Hill, | Sawbridgeworth.

Oct 14/66

My Dear Sir/

When looking over some grass a species of Bromus from the North Western coast of America—with a friend & botanist we noticed some oats that were producing ears of barley   this led to the assertion made by Elihu Burritt in his “Walk through the Eastern Counties” that a farmer at St. Ives Hunts had for years “transmuted” oats into barley.1 doubting this I wrote to the writer of the enclosed2 a farmer of 1600 acres a Member of the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society & above all a good & truthful gentleman. The subject may possibly be an old one with you but to me so curious & well authenticated as to tempt me to trouble you.3 The writer’s name is Mr. Jno. Claydon4

I am My Dr. Sir | Yrs. very truly | Thos. Rivers


Burritt’s claim that oats ‘transmuted’ into barley appeared in A walk from London to John O’Groat’s (Burritt 1864, pp. 170–1). St Ives is near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire.
The enclosure has not been found.
For earlier discussions on the transmutation of oats into barley, see letter from G. S. Gibson, 7 July 1866, and letter from S. V. Wood, 16 July 1866.
Rivers probably refers to John Clayden of Littlebury, Saffron Walden, Essex, a member of the council of the Royal Agricultural Society (Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England 2d ser. 2 (1866): ii).


Burritt, Elihu. 1864. A walk from London to John O’Groat’s, with notes by the way. 2d edition. London: Sampson, Low, Son, & Marston.


Sends CD a letter from Mr Claydon responding to TR’s doubts and confirming the truth of a report that a farmer had "transmuted" oats into barley.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Rivers
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176: 169
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5242,” accessed on 19 January 2020,

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