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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Tegetmeier   18 February 1863

Muswell Hill | N.

Feby 18/63

My dear Sir

I hoped to have the pleasure of seeing you at the Linnean society, and much regret the cause of your absence1

There were one or two points connected with my little experiment that I should have been very glad to have asked you respecting, such as your suggestion to employ Carriers and Turbits, instead of Barbs and Fantails.—2

In accordance with your suggestion I have procured some Silk fowls (two very good black skinned hens) and a Spanish Cock.3 I am devoting a small paddock to them and will hatch several clutches of chickens— Do you think that the two hens will be sufficient or can you suggest any modification of the experiment.— Would it be desirable or necessary to have a second set to cross their offspring with those of the first—4 If so I would make arrangements to procure them— —

Trusting to hear of improvement in your health | Believe me | Very truly yours | W B Tegetmeier

C Darwin Esq


Although CD was in London from 4 to 14 February 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)), illness prevented his attendance at the meeting of the Linnean Society on 5 February, at which his paper ‘Two forms in species of Linum was read (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 19 February [1863]).
On 1 December 1862, the council of the Royal Society of London resolved to grant £10 to Tegetmeier for ‘experiments on the cross-breeding of pigeons’ (Royal Society, Council minutes, 1 December 1862). CD sent Tegetmeier a manuscript list of the crosses he had made between different pigeon varieties, adding that: ‘If I were going to try again, I would prefer Turbit with Carrier or Dragon’ (Correspondence vol. 10, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 27 [December 1862] and n. 4); CD explained this preference in his letter to W. B. Tegetmeier of 19 February [1863]. CD’s changing views on the causes of cross and hybrid sterility had prompted him to seek further experimental evidence on the question, especially with regard to animals (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI). Between 1863 and 1865, Tegetmeier carried out a series of crosses between varieties of pigeon designed to test the fertility of their hybrids; he tested the progeny of three generations without finding ‘any sign of want of fertility’ (see letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 29 June – 7 July 1863, and letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 13 March 1865, Calendar no. 4785). CD provided a brief summary of the results of his own crossing experiments with pigeons in Variation 1: 192 n. 19.
In his letter of 27 [December 1862] (Correspondence vol. 10), CD asked Tegetmeier to obtain and cross ‘a Spanish Cock & a couple of white Silk hens’ in order to ascertain whether the offspring bred well and to test for prepotency in the transmission of silky plumage. CD had conducted similar trials in 1859 and 1860 (see CD’s Experimental notebook (DAR 157a), pp. 41–2, 49–50). See also Correspondence vol. 7, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 13 September [1859], and Correspondence vol. 8, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 24 [February? 1860]. CD concluded that ‘Silk-fowl’ seldom transmitted their silky plumage when crossed with any other variety of chicken (Variation 2: 67). Tegetmeier’s experiments confirmed CD’s observations (Tegetmeier 1867, p. 224). There is an annotated copy of Tegetmeier 1867 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 800–3).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1867. The poultry book: comprising the breeding and management of profitable and ornamental poultry, their qualities and characteristics; to which is added ‘The standard of excellence in exhibition birds’, authorized by the Poultry Club. London and New York: George Routledge & Sons.

‘Two forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]

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


Hoped to meet CD at the Linnean Society to discuss pigeon and poultry breeding experiments.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Muswell Hill
Source of text
DAR 178: 57
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3995,” accessed on 1 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11