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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Yarrell   [5 or 12 September 1842]

Dear Yarrell

I feel too dull & languid to see anyone to day—so will you please give my compliments to Mr Bicheno1 & say how sorry I feel at being compelled to forego the pleasure of being introduced to him. If he has any questions (besides those which you asked me) & will take the trouble of writing them, if it lies in my power to give him any information I shall have great pleasure in doing so.—

I enjoyed my conversation with you yesterday, but the exertion knocked me up.— Do not forget when you see Sir J. Sebright2 to ask him whether the cross with the white Bantam brought back any of the “secondary male characters” to the hen-cock breed.

Believe me | dear Yarrell | Yours most truly | C. Darwin 12 Upper Gower St



James Ebenezer Bicheno was appointed Colonial Secretary of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in September 1842 (DNB); he probably sought information about the colony from CD.
Sir John Saunders Sebright. In Natural selection (p. 36) CD refers to him as ‘an acute observer … who bred all sorts of animals during his whole life, & who boasted that he could produce any feather in [three] years & any form in [six] years’. He bred the famous Sebright bantam, in which the cocks lack male plumage (EB, 22: 215).


DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.


CD is too dull and languid to see Mr Bicheno but will be glad to answer his questions if he writes.

Asks WY to ask J. Sebright "whether the cross with white bantam brought back any of the ""secondary male characters"" to the hen–cock breed".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Yarrell
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand (Letters to Dr William Kitchen Parker and his sons, MS-Papers-1256-2)
Physical description
ALS 3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 613,” accessed on 3 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2