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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Leonard Jenyns   9 May 1868

Darlington Place | Bath

May 9/68.

My dear Darwin,

I stumbled quite by accident yesterday on a reference to the habits of the Cuckoo by M. Prevost, of which I had made a note, I did not know that I possessed when I wrote to you a short time back in reply to your inquiries.—1

As it bears a little upon the remarks & suggestions I made in that letter, relating to that bird (if I recollect rightly what I said)—I thought you might like to have it.— Of course I give no opinion on the correctness or not of what the author states,—but you may judge for yourself in this matter;—and, on the other side, I have copied out the exact passage as it stands in my note book, with reference to the periodical in which his paper appeared.—

I heard of your having been at Kew a short time back—through my sister-in-law, Miss Hawthorn, who was staying with the Hookers at the time, & much pleased with having been introduced to you.— I hope your visit there may be taken as a sign that you are in better health than formerly.—2

Believe me, My dear Darwin, | Your’s very Sincerely | L. Jenyns.—

P.S. you need not trouble yourself to acknowledge this.—

Note referred to above.—

“According to observations made by M. Prevost, it would seem that the Cuckoo is polygamous; that the action of the male does not fecundate more than one or two ovules;—that each copulation is followed by laying;—and that it is the number of these successive copulations in one season, to which the bird is prompted by a natural instinct, which prevents the female from incubating and bringing up her own young.”— (See some remarks on the Habits of the Cuckoo, by M. Prevost, in L’Institut, 1834, p. 418.)


See letter to Leonard Jenyns, 22 February [1868], and letter from Leonard Jenyns, 27 February 1868. Florent Prévost’s note was in L’Institut 2 (1834): 418–19. CD had referred to this note in his Journal of researches 2d ed., p. 53.
CD had visited Joseph Dalton Hooker at Kew on 30 or 31 March 1868 (see letters to J. D. Hooker, [26 March 1868], [28 March 1868], and 3 April [1868]. Jenyns refers to Grace Hawthorn.


Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.


Sends his notes on Florent Prévost’s reference to the habits of the cuckoo.

Letter details

Letter no.
Leonard Jenyns/Leonard Blomefield
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 168: 58
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6168,” accessed on 25 November 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16