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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Athénaïs Michelet   23 May 1872

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

May 23 1872


I am much obliged for the honour of your interesting letter; & it will give me much pleasure to do any thing that you wish, as far as lies in my power. I wrote immediately to a gentleman who had served as one of the judges at the Crystal Palace, for the dates of the reports, & for information about any books on cats.1

I heard from him this morning that he was just starting on a journey, but that he wd write to me in a week’s time.2 As soon as I hear I will endeavour to get what you desire, & send you any publications which I can procure. I do not know of any works exclusively on the larger Feline animals; perhaps as good an account as any will be found in Brehm’s Thierleben, which I believe has been translated into French.3

I am much obliged for your information about the fertility of crossed Angora & common cats. It is not believd by physiologists that the characters of two fathers can be transmitted to one & the same individual; & experiments on plants seem to negative any such belief. But I was reading the other day a paper by Fritz Müller which seemed to render this belief in some degree probable.4

I thank you for the kind present of your book, which I shall have great pleasure in reading when I receive it.5 Possibly I may find something about the expression & gestures of cats under different emotions; & this is a subject which much interests me.

I have the honour to remain with much respect | yours faithfully | Charles Darwin


See letter from Athénaïs Michelet, 17 May 1872 and n. 8. CD may have written to Harrison Weir or John Jenner Weir, two of his correspondents who were also judges at the cat show (The Times, 4 December 1871, p. 12), but his letter has not been found.
Neither letter has been found.
Brehm et al. 1864–9 was translated into French as La vie des animaux illustrée (Brehm [1869–73]).
Michelet had described a litter of three kittens, two of which had resembled their parents, and the third of which resembled a rival to the male parent. In the first part of F. Müller 1872–3, pp. 42–3, Fritz Müller had discussed the apparent influence of two male parents in a single fruit. Müller crossed species of Abutilon, using pollen from two different species applied to a third species; he noted that an individual crossed fruit produced some seed that showed characteristics of one male parent and some that showed characteristics of the other male parent. Müller showed that the different types clustered, although both types might occur in any single cell of seeds.


Brehm, Alfred Edmund. [1869–73.] La vie des animaux illustrée, ou description populaire du règne animal. French translation supervised by Z. Gerbe. 4 vols. Paris: J. B. Baillière et Fils.


Discusses books about cats and crosses in cats. Thanks her for her book on cats.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Adèle-Athénaïs Mialaret (Athénaïs) Michelet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.417)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8348,” accessed on 7 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20