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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   14 January [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 14th

My dear Fox

Have you Hewitsons work on Eggs, in which you gave some observations on variations of Birds’ nests?2 If you have could you dare send it per post well done up & allow me to pay postage; for I do not know how else I cd get to see it.—

Have you ever heard that the first year that Birds build, they are not quite so adroit— LeRoy states this to be so, but I can hardly believe him.3

Can you give me any thoroughily well authenticated facts on ever so little variations in nests; I do not mean such cases as the Water owzel habitually having a doomed or open nest—or difference of Sparrow’s nest in tree & in hole; but rather any slight difference in degree of perfection of nest of same species in different districts or of any individuals of same species.—4

The smallest charity in this line would be gratefully accepted.—

Ever yours | In Haste | C. Darwin


The letter has the year ‘1858’ added to the date, but it is not clear whether this is in CD’s hand. The endorsement by Fox confirms that the letter was written in 1858.
Leroy 1802, pp. 104–5. CD cited this work on several occasions in chapter 10 of his species book, on the ‘Mental powers and instincts of animals’, but did not give this particular example.
See letter to W. D. Fox, 31 January [1858]. Fox had long been interested in nidification (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter from W. D. Fox, 30 June 1832).


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

Hewitson, William Chapman. 1831–44. British oology; being illustrations of the eggs of British birds, with figures of each species, as far as practicable, drawn and coloured from nature: accompanied by descriptions of the materials and situation of their nests, number of eggs, etc. 2 vols. and supplement. Newcastle upon Tyne.

Leroy, Charles Georges. 1802. Lettres philosophiques sur l’intelligence et la perfectibilité des animaux, avec quelques lettres sur l’homme. Paris.


Asks to borrow W. C. Hewitson’s book [British oology, 2 vols. (1831–44)].

CD is searching for reliable information on slight variations in the degree of perfection of nests of the same species of birds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 108)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2202,” accessed on 16 August 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7