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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Cupples   26 May 1868

Guard Bridge | St Andrew’s. N.B.

May 26/68.

(the above is sufficient address)1

My Dear Sir,

I was waiting for one of my correspondents on the statistics of size and sex, who has still to be forthcoming—but am glad meanwhile of the opportunity afforded by your note of the 22d.2

I shall carefully attend to the point raised in that note. Today there is only time (before post) to forward one or two further memoranda on the previous points—including a letter from one of my principal correspondents, which may be of more service in the end than anything else. It is from “John Wright, Esqr. of Yeldersley House, nr. Derby”—a man of £90,000 a year (no small qualification) and a most enthusiastic and skilful breeder of horses and cattle as well as Scotch Deerhounds—who goes over the world and spares no money nor trouble in the matter, and is immeasurably better worth your notice than I am (for general experience and opportunities of information.) I send his letter entire, in order to give its full impression—and you will see that he wishes to be employed by you.3 He has not answered me as the statistics of births—but had already done so as to relative size of deerhounds (which I copy elsewhere from a previous letter.)4 He would, I have no doubt, exert himself in the cause—he has every facility—and he has evidently been in the habit of keeping careful notes with a breeder’s view—which I have not hitherto done and know nothing of other animals except at second-hand. I therefore hope, on the one hand for his satisfaction, on the other for your probable advantage, that you will think it worthwhile to send him queries, directly addressed to himself. He is a man in the prime of life and activity—gentlemanly and intelligent. (connected, I believe, with some large banking firm—or rather, a member of a family so connected.)

In regard to the anecdote of the English terrier, you may depend perfectly on it as authentic.5 I knew the dog— she died about 12 or 13 years old—never had pups—belonged to my wife’s maternal uncle, who died lately.6 The retriever in question belonged to a next-door neighbour, was kept chained in a kennel in the adjacent garden, while the bitch was from 1 to 3 years old—and she used to go in beside him, sometimes having to be dragged out. Whether or not there were actual attempts at copulation, I cannot say, except from her master’s general impression afterwards stated to me—when referring to the fact of her never breeding. This latter fact was the more brought forward, as she was a remarkably good specimen of the purebred English terrier—wonderfully intelligent—and her original proprietor had stipulated that she should be sent back to him, to be put to a dog of her own breed. This was done subsequently, and she attacked the terrier fiercely, so as to prevent anything of the kind (an uncommon thing, so far as I know, though it might happen from other causes, perhaps, than individual preference.) Afterwards her habit was, when followed by dogs, either to run home or get her master to take her up in his arms. She lived in Edinburgh, it should be observed—and her master’s daily walk was to the Register House in the thick of the town, whither she regularly followed him, unless purposely shut up or thus driven home to refuge.7 So much for poor little “Corra”—whose case, so far as it goes, may be relied upon.

I was struck by the fact of Mayhew’s coincidence with this case and my own bitch’s—especially as I had not read his remarks till I wrote to you.8

On second thoughts I retain my other notes for the present—being late for post, and confining myself to Mr Wright’s letter. It need not be returned at present— afterwards will do.9

Of the deerhound puppy question more anon.10

Pray believe me truly yours | George Cupples

P.S. | I shall weigh the Dog-pups & bitch-pups every week—and record the results during any period desirable   I have at present 10 pups

Chas. Darwin, Esqr

CD annotations

1.1 I … connected.) 2.19] crossed blue crayon
3.6 Whether … breeding. 3.8] ‘she showed repeatedly milk in her teats’ added ink
4.1 I … to you. 4.2] crossed blue crayon
5.1 On … anon. 6.1] crossed pencil
8.1 P.S.... 10 pups 8.2] crossed blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘& size Puppies for Mr Wright | Case of Terrier Bitch before alluded to—’ blue crayon


CD had addressed his last letter to George Cupples at ‘The Cottage | Guard Bridge | St Andrews | N.B.’ (i.e., North Britain; see n. 2, below).
CD’s letter of 22 May 1868 has not been found: however, there is a cover, addressed to Cupples and postmarked Down 23 May 1868, at the American Philosophical Society. There is a note on the cover by CD, ‘at what age [they] differ in size?’ There is also a note by Cupples, ‘Mr Darwin (No. 3) | Recd. May 26/68’.
Wright’s letter has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Cupples copied Wright’s comments on the relative size of deerhounds, taken from a letter of Wright’s dated 11 May 1868, in his letter to CD of 13 July 1868.
The uncle has not been identified.
The General Register House, which holds Scotland’s state records and historical documents, is in Princes Street, Edinburgh.
Cupples refers to Edward Mayhew. See letter from George Cupples, 11–13 May 1868 and 3d enclosure.
See nn. 3 and 4, above.
Cupples had offered CD a deerhound puppy (see letter from George Cupples, 11–13 May 1868).


Refers to letter from John Wright offering to help CD on his queries about deerhounds and sexual preferences.

More details about a terrier bitch previously referred to [letter missing].

Letter details

Letter no.
George Cupples
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Guard Bridge
Source of text
DAR 83: 127–8
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6211,” accessed on 9 December 2019,

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