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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. J. Weir   18 June [1868]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

June 18th

My dear Sir

Many thanks. I am glad that you mentioned the Linnet, for I had much difficulty in persuading myself that the crimson breast could be due to change in the old feathers, as the books say.—

I am glad to hear of the retribution of the wicked old she Bull-finch.—1

You remember telling me how many Weirs & Jenners have been naturalists;2 now this morning I have been putting together all my references about one bird of a pair being killed & a new mate being soon found; you Jenner Weir have given me some most striking cases with Starlings;3 Dr Jenner gives the most curious case of all in Phil. Transact.4 & a Mr Weir gives the next most striking in Magillivray.—5 Now is this not odd?

Pray remember how very glad we shall be to see you here whenever you can come.—

Believe me | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

Did some ancient progenitor of the Weirs & Jenners puzzle his brains about the mating of Birds, & has the question become indelibly fixed in all your minds?!


See also letter to J. J. Weir, 18 April [1868]; Weir’s remarks were probably in his letter of 5 April 1868, which is incomplete.
CD cited Edward Jenner’s posthumously published paper, ‘Some observations on the migration of birds’ (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1824) pt 1: 11–44) in Descent 2: 103, for Jenner’s case of a magpie whose mate was shot but who succeeded in finding another seven times. CD’s bound copy of the Philosophical Transactions for 1824 is in the Darwin Library–CUL; this article is annotated.
CD cited Macgillivray 1837–52, 1: 570, in Descent 2: 103, in a section about the shooting of magpies. The cited page contains a report by a ‘Mr Weir of Boghead’, who shot the mate of a single male three successive times; the female was each time replaced, and sat on the same eggs. This page is scored in the copy in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 551–7). Weir of Boghead has not been further identified.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Macgillivray, William. 1837–52. History of British birds, indigenous and migratory. 5 vols. London: Scott, Webster, and Geary; William S. Orr and Co.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.


CD thanks JJW for letter about the crimson breast of linnets

and the fate of a pugnacious female bullfinch.

Refers to JJW’s pointing out the number of Jenners and Weirs who have been naturalists, and cites some writings by men of those families about striking cases of birds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Jenner Weir
Sent from
JU 19 68
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6250,” accessed on 13 December 2019,

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