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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Clair James Grece   12 November 1866

– –

To Cha: Darwin, Esqre. | Bromley, | London, S.E.


I enclose a slip from the Morning Star,1 lest the fact it records should escape your attention; and, I will add my attestation to its substantial correctness. That the animal has no skin is, of course, not strictly true; but it has cast its entire skin from the snout to the tail, together with subcutaneous fat of from one to three inches in thickness, leaving a second skin now exposed to the external air. The animal was in a stye to be fatted, but about three weeks ago was observed to be off its appetite, and portions of the skin of the belly peeled off; but the owner could not foresee that the whole skin was to slough off. However, one morning he found the skin, with fat as aforesaid, lying in the stye, having obviously, come off in a mass during the night, and the pig, like the snake in Virgil,2 resplendent in a delicate new attire. The former skin was black and bristly, the new one was, at first, entirely flesh coloured but is changing to black by degrees.— The animal, after the crisis was over, recovered its appetite, and, to all appearance, has now naught the matter with it. The skin is preserved. Many persons have visited it, but, I believe, no one as yet of natural historical knowledge.

You may recollect me as having some year or two since pointed out to you a passage from Aristotle, shewing that “Natural Selection” was known to the ancients.3

I remain, Sir, | your very obt. servt, | Clair J. Grece.

Redhill Surrey

12th. Novr. 1866.

P.S. Should you like to see the animal, it is on the premises of one Mr. Jennings,4 a baker, in Horley Row about one mile north of the Horley Station of the London and Brighton railway.

A fly might not be procurable at that station, so that you might prefer to alight at the Redhill Station, where vehicles are readily obtainable, and whence it is about four miles to the southward.



Freak of Nature.— One of those extraordinary freaks of nature can now be witnessed by any person who will take the train from London Bridge to Horley station, within five minutes’ walk of the Chequers’ Inn, at Horley. A living pig may be seen at Mr. Jennings’s, without a skin on it, the animal having adopted the course of throwing off its entire coat from head to tail, with hair and flesh, the latter nearly three inches thick. It is doing well, and the coat hangs on one of the trees adjoining the stye. It is quite a curiosity, and may become matter for future discussion at the Anthropological Society. The flesh is like good pork, fat and lean, and has no appearance of disease. In fact, he is a specimen grunter, without a coat, and the new one is growing nicely.

Morning Star: Saturday the 10th. November 1866.


The enclosure is an article from the London newspaper, the Morning Star, 10 November 1866.
The reference is to a passage from Virgil’s Aeneid: So shines, renew’d in youth, the crested snake, Who slept the winter in a thorny brake, And, casting off his slough when spring returns, Now looks aloft, and with new glory burns. Bk 2, ll. 471–4, trans. Dryden
The letter from Grece containing the reference to Aristotle has not been found, but CD added Grece’s information to the historical sketch in Origin 4th ed., p. xiii n.
Stephen Jennings was a baker and shopkeeper in Horley, Surrey (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1866).


Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.


Sends clipping about a pig that has cast its outer skin.

Identifies himself as having a year or two ago pointed out a passage from Aristotle showing that natural selection was known to the ancients.

Letter details

Letter no.
Clair James Grece
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 165: 220 and 220a
Physical description
3pp enc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5276,” accessed on 21 January 2022,

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