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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   [2 December 1855]1

Down Bromley Kent

Sunday Evening.

My dear Sir

I must have the pleasure of thanking you for your very kind reception of me, & all the to me really most valuable information, which you gave me. I can assure you it is a long time since I have passed so interesting a morning. But I have, also, an interested motive in writing viz to beg one or two little favours of you; one is to measure for me the length of the upper & lower canine teeth in that very curious skull of the cat: I had intended doing whilst with you, but the amount of interesting talk made me quite forget. I shd like to know the length of the white portion, which was uncovered by the gum, & if the tooth is loose in skull the entire length of the tooth & fang.— What coloured cat was it? & was it very large? All fish come to my net in regard to variation, & I never remember hearing of such a case before. Perhaps your shortest way would be to prick me the length with a pair of compasses, & then I could measure the length carefully to the 1100th of an inch.—2

After being with you I went and ordered some pigeons & brought home two curious Ducks, the hook-billed & tufted.—

I have been thinking that it will give you as you live in country3 much trouble, to send me the less rare breeds of Fowls, & I could get them by payment at Mr Bakers,4 but not quite such good birds, as I have no doubt I shd. have got from you. But do you think you could aid me in a few of the rarer breeds: would it be asking too great a favour to get you to supplicate the owner of those wonderful black Turkish Fowls at Anerly Show5 to take the trouble to send the cock, or even Hen (shd one die) to me, addressed “to care of Mr Acton Post Office Bromley Kent.”— And likewise is it in your power to get me a horned Azores Cock? In the course of a year or two some other rare breeds you might possibly hear of, & it would be of the greatest use to me to have the carcases.— You seem so very goodnatured that I think that you will forgive all the many favours which I have asked.

Believe me with very sincere thanks. My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin

When you catch your splendid Victoria Runts, please not forget to look at first flight feather.—

I presume the fresh head of Poland was the white Poland, & can you remember whether the prepared skull, on which I marked with pencil (H.) to show it was a Hen, & which you gave me, was, also, a White Poland?—6

I saw & heard so much new to me that my head was quite confused.


The first Sunday in December (see endorsement). CD had been to see Tegetmeier on Friday, 23 November (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 16 November [1855]).
The case is cited in Variation 1: 48, where CD stated: ‘Mr. Tegetmeier has shown me the skull of a female cat with its canines so much developed that they protruded uncovered beyond the lips; the tooth with the fang being .95, and the part projecting from the gum .6 of an inch in length.’
Tegetmeier’s address at this time was Wood Green, Tottenham (CD’s Address book (Down House MS)).
Samuel C. and Charles N. Baker, dealers in ornamental poultry and live wild-fowl, 3 Half Moon Passage, City and Beaufort St, King’s Road, Chelsea (Post Office London directory 1851 and CD’s Address book).
The poultry show, the largest in England, that was held at Anerley Gardens, near Sydenham, Kent. In 1855, it was held 28–30 August. CD refers to the Ghoondook Turkish fowl, a sub-breed of the Polish fowl (Variation 1: 229).
Tegetmeier displayed the skulls of Polish fowl at the 25 November 1856 meeting of the Zoological Society, reported in the Proceedings (Tegetmeier 1856). As CD described in Variation 1: 266, the breeder, in selecting for a larger crest, ‘has unintentionally made the skull protuberant to an astonishing degree; and through correlation of growth, he has at the same time affected … the internal configuration of the whole skull together with the shape of the brain.’ The breed was illustrated in Variation 1: 229.


Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1856. On the remarkable peculiarities existing in the skulls of the feather-crested variety of the domestic fowl, now known as the Polish. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 24: 366–8.

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


Raises queries resulting from their meeting. "All fish come to my net in regard to variation."

Is acquiring pigeons and poultry and would be particularly grateful for any of the rarer breeds that WBT could supply.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
ALS 7pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1788,” accessed on 3 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5