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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Ogle   [before 9 November 1870]1

34 Clarges St. | Piccadilly.

Dear Sir,

I have taken the liberty of sending you a copy of a paper which I read at the beginning of the year before the Royal Med. Chir. Society, of which you are an honorary Fellow.2

I thought that you might perhaps find some interest in the speculation as to the use of pigment in animals, and its distribution, in which I have indulged in the latter half of the article. (p. 14–28)3

I have ventured in one place (p. 19–20) to suggest hypothetically a different account of the relation between the white colour of animals and their liability to be poisoned by noxious plants, than that advanced by yourself, in your work on Domesticated animals and plants.4

If it be not asking too great a favour of you, I should much like to hear, whether any facts personally observed by yourself are inconsistent with the hypothesis I have suggested. Whether, that is, you are yourself assured from personal knowledge that coloured animals do eat actually the poisonous plants, without suffering from them, or without suffering so much as do the white.

Again apologising for thus troubling you | Believe me | Yours sincerely | William Ogle.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to William Ogle, 9 November 1870.
Ogle sent an offprint of ‘Anosmia; or, cases illustrating the physiology and pathology of the sense of smell’ (Ogle 1870a); an annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Ogle read the paper on 25 January 1870. CD was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London on 9 June 1868 (see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix III).
Ogle refers to the pagination in the offprint he sent CD; the corresponding page numbers in Ogle 1870a are pages 276–90.
Ogle argued that animals with less pigment in the olfactory area and with less pigment extending elsewhere had a worse sense of smell, so were more likely to eat poisonous plants and not survive (Ogle 1870a, pp. 281–2). CD had suggested that both lighter and darker animals ate the same poisonous foods, but that the lighter animals were more vulnerable to their damaging effects (Variation 2: 335–8).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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


Sends CD a paper dealing in part with animal pigmentation [Med.-Chir. Trans. 2d ser. 411 [check vol no!?] (1870): 263–90]. Discusses relationship between white colouring and susceptibility to poisonous plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Ogle
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Clarges St, 34
Source of text
DAR 173: 3
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7361,” accessed on 20 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18