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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. K. Thwaites   16 October 1868

Peradeniya, Ceylon

16 Oct 1868

My dear Darwin,

With this I am sending to Kew for you a little specimen of a plant which I think will interest you— It’s beauty will certainly please you.1

My friend Mr Glenie will be delighted, I am sure, to hear from you.2 He tells me he has a pair of the black-boned fowls ♂ & ♀ both white & that he hopes to succeed in raising a brood of chickens from them. Mr. Layard’s specimens, I should judge from his note, were all smoke coloured.3

I have perused your new Book with the greatest possible interest, and am not aghast at your Pangenesis Theory.4 Indeed it is not at all inconsistent with my own views given in some preliminary remarks to a little paper on Diatoms published in the Ann. of Nat. Hist for March 1848.5 You, however, put the idea into a more definite shape, making quality depend upon innumerable highly organised atoms or cells. One may have an infinitessimally small quantity of a liquid containing many sorts of chrystallizable substances each of which would chrystallise under proper conditions—so why not of highly organised substances each ready to pronounce itself under favorable circumstances? I cannot see why—

Your’s always | most sincerely | G. H. K. Thwaites.


The specimen has not been identified.
See letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 2 September 1868 and n. 3. The letter to Samuel Owen Glenie has not been found.
CD had originally asked Thwaites about the plumage of young black-boned fowl found in Ceylon (Sri Lanka; see letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 19 May [1868]). Thwaites had already forwarded information on the fowls from Charles Peter Layard (see letter from C. P. Layard to G. H. K. Thwaites, 28 July 1868).
Thwaites refers to CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis, presented in Variation 2: 357–404.


Thwaites, George Henry Kendrick. 1848. Further observations on the Diatomaceæ; with descriptions of new genera and species. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 2d ser. 1: 161–72.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


On local black-boned fowls,

CD’s new book [Variation], and Pangenesis.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Henry Kendrick Thwaites
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Peradeniya, Ceylon
Source of text
DAR 178: 125
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6420,” accessed on 10 December 2022,

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