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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. K. Fowler   9 October 1871

Prebendal Farms | Aylesbury

Octbr. 9th. 1871.

Charles Darwin Esqr. F.R.S.

Dear Sir.—

At the Central Farmers Club, on the first Monday in next December—I have undertaken to read, at the request of several of my Agricultural friends—a paper, on “Breeding— Facts—& Principles”—and last week in conversation with Mr. Bartlett, at the Zoological Gardens, he mentioned that I might venture to write to you for some hints on the subject—1 From a close perusal of your admirable works, and information I have had of your kindness & courtesy, I have presumed to ask if you will kindly aid me in giving me a few facts, if I should require them.— My broad view which I have a desire to establish is, “that the Male exercises the greatest influence on the external appearances, especially the locomotive powers, and the internal organisation, to a great extent, follows the female”— if this can in the main be proven—as breeders of food for the people, we farmers, will be much aided in our efforts— I need not tell you that this is no new theory but was broached before farmers some years ago—in 1854—by Mr. Reginald Orton in a paper read before the Newcastle Farmers Club—on “the Physiology of Breeding”—& it has been occasionally touched on since—but as most of the best Shorthorn, & other Cattle breeders will be present at our Meeting during the great Cattle Show in Decbr., we anticipate some utility in discussing it—2 If you can therefore give me a hint as to what works I may safely study, and also inform me whether you agree with my View in the main—and can assist me in this most desirable matter—I shall esteem it a very great favour—3

The great price at which Butchers meat has arrived, and the desirability of feeding our increasing population demands serious attention, and probably hints may be obtained of great value for the future—& I am sure from the universal fame of your name anything from your pen will carry great weight— If it would not be asking you too much, I would venture to beg an interview with you—& would come to Town some day & run down to have a few words with you— Apologising for thus troubling you | I remain | Most truly yours | John K. Fowler

Prebendal Farms, Aylesbury—


The Central (or London) Farmers’ Club held monthly discussion meetings at its headquarters, the Salisbury Hotel, Fleet Street, London (Thirsk ed. 1967–2000, 7 (pt 1): 652). The meeting of 4 December 1871 was reported in the Ipswich Journal, 9 December 1871, supplement p. 1. Abraham Dee Bartlett was the superintendent of the Zoological Gardens, Regent’s Park, London.
Orton’s Physiology of breeding (R. Orton 1855) is cited in Variation 1: 404 n. 138. CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. The Smithfield Club cattle show was open to the public from 5 to 8 December 1871 (The Times, 5 December 1871, p. 8).
No reply from CD has been found.


Orton, Reginald. 1855. On the physiology of breeding. Two lectures, delivered to the Newcastle Farmers’ Club. 2d edition. Sunderland.

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


Is preparing paper on breeding ["Breeding facts and principles", J. Farmers’ Club (1871): 45–53]. Seeks CD’s advice and assistance. Believes male parent influences external appearance and female the internal organisation.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Kersley Fowler
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 169
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7998,” accessed on 20 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19