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From Edward Blyth   26 February 1856


There is a possibility of establishment of a Government Museum at Calcutta, with which the Asiatic Society Museum would be merged. EB would like the curatorship but fears other possible applicants. Asks CD to represent him to W. H. Sykes.

Discusses the ancients’ awareness of various cats as deduced from the etymology of their names.

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  26 Feb 1856
Classmark:  DAR 98: A126–A127
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1833

To Miles Joseph Berkeley   29 February [1856]


Preparing paper on seed-soaking for Linnean Society ["Action of sea-water on seeds", Collected papers 1: 264–73]. Wants to use MJB’s results. Lost ardour when he found seeds would not float.

Has grown MJB’s purest pea seeds and got a few variants. Gärtner’s experiments suggest direct action of pollen, but CD thinks it is "mere variation".

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Miles Joseph Berkeley
Date:  29 Feb [1856]
Classmark:  Shropshire Archives (SA 6001/134/45)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1834

From John Morris   1 March 1856



Informs CD on age of land, freshwater, and marine Mollusca.

Author:  John Morris
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  1 Mar 1856
Classmark:  DAR 205.2: 246
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1835

From M. J. Berkeley   7 March 1856


Reports on breeding experiments with various seeds: corn, aubergine, kidney beans, sugar-peas. Speculates that cause of changes in seed colour in sugar-peas may be mere variation rather than result of impregnation.

Author:  Miles Joseph Berkeley
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  7 Mar 1856
Classmark:  DAR 160: 174
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1836

To George Henry Kendrick Thwaites   8 March 1856


Hopes GHKT will publish on variations in plant species at different elevations. Asks about variations among plants on heights of Ceylon.

Promises to publish on the species question.

Asks for pigeons’ skins from India or Ceylon, and for ducks’ skeletons. Mentions help promised by E. F. Kelaart.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  George Henry Kendrick Thwaites
Date:  8 Mar 1856
Classmark:  American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.125)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1837

From Thomas Hutton   8 March 1856


TH believes that the progeny of hybrid crosses, in which a domesticated or "artificial" race is involved, tend to resemble the more "natural" of their parents [see Natural selection, p. 486].

Provides some information on local hybrid domestic geese [see Natural selection, p. 439] and pigeons.

Author:  Thomas Hutton
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  8 Mar 1856
Classmark:  DAR 166: 283
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1838

To Syms Covington   9 March 1856


Thanks SC for his interesting account of the state of the colony. SC was wise to settle there where his sons have much better prospects.

Has finished his book on barnacles [1854]. Royal Medal awarded him chiefly for this work.

Asks SC whether he has observed any odd imported breeds of poultry, for his work on variation of species.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Syms Covington
Date:  9 Mar 1856
Classmark:  Sydney Mail, 9 August 1884, p. 255
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1840

To Herbert Spencer   11 March [1856]


Thanks for copy of HS’s Principles of psychology [1855].

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Herbert Spencer
Date:  11 Mar [1856]
Classmark:  DAR 147: 484a
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1841

To Samuel Birch   [12 March 1856]


Arranges an appointment.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Samuel Birch
Date:  [12 Mar 1856]
Classmark:  British Museum (Department of the Middle East, correspondence 1826–67: 1489)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1841A

To W. B. Tegetmeier   15 March [1856]


Asks WBT to try to purchase some specific pigeons.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Date:  15 Mar [1856]
Classmark:  Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1842

To W. D. Fox   15 March [1856]


Believes WDF’s case of mongrel Scotch deerhound is very valuable for him.

Mentions his work on pigeons and chickens.

Fears sometimes he will break down: "My subject gets bigger and bigger".

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  William Darwin Fox
Date:  15 Mar [1856]
Classmark:  Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 97)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1843

To Miles Joseph Berkeley   18 March [1856]


Thanks MJB for information which he is including in his article for the Linnean Society.

Refers to the peas "which produce the black or intensely purple pods". [See 1834 and 1836.]

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Miles Joseph Berkeley
Date:  18 Mar [1856]
Classmark:  Joseph R. Sakmyster, ADS Autographs (dealer) (no date)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1843A

To W. B. Tegetmeier   20 March [1856]


Discusses various pigeons and would welcome receiving any odd breed. Some pigeons have died from overeating bag salt.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Date:  20 Mar [1856]
Classmark:  Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1844

From Edward Blyth   [c. 22 March 1856]


Gives references to works on fowls and pigeons.

Observations on Gallinaceae.

Musk ox skull from southern England is additional evidence for Agassiz’s glacial period. Owen is mistaken in calling it a buffalo.

EB describes the buffalo proper.

Will send domestic pigeon specimens.

Believes pigeons were not bred in India before the Mohammedan conquest. Describes Indian breeds.

Believes the ass is an African rather than an Asian production. Discusses various species of ass and their distribution.

Wild horned cattle on borders of Pilibhit and Shahjahanpur.

[Notes received by CD on 6 May 1856.]

Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [c. 22 Mar 1856]
Classmark:  DAR 98: 133–9
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1845

To C. J. Andersson   25 March [1856]


Thanks for proof sheets of Lake Ngami: or, exploration and discoveries during four years’ wanderings in the wilds of South Western Africa (Andersson 1856).

Is very grateful for the information CJA has provided about cattle in South Africa, and wishes to ask further questions about native breeds.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Charles John (Carl Johann) Andersson
Date:  25 Mar [1856]
Classmark:  National Library of South Africa, Cape Town
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1845F

To Thomas Henry Huxley   2 April [1856]


Invitation to THH and wife to come to Down to meet H. C. Watson, T. V. Wollaston, and the Hookers.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Thomas Henry Huxley
Date:  2 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 46)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1847

To Walter Baldock Durrant Mantell   3 April [1856]


Reminds WBDM of his promise of information about the quartz boulders and an iceberg with fragment of rock seen in southern ocean.

Sends other questions [on separate sheet (missing)] which WBDM will think ridiculous, but all bear on plants and animals under domestication.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Walter Baldock Durrant Mantell
Date:  3 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand (MS-Papers-0083-268)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1848

From Edward Blyth   [3 April 1856]


Reports observations on Indian pigeons from David Scott at Hansi. EB adds remarks on Indian breeds he has encountered. Suggests Egypt, Turkey, and Syria would be good places from which to obtain specimens. Believes domestic races are all descended from Columba livia; their calls are all similar and they pair indiscriminately.


Author:  Edward Blyth
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [3 Apr 1856]
Classmark:  DAR 98: A140–A143
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1849

From Charles John Andersson   [6 April 1856]



European men choose partners for different reasons. Savages select more for bodily attraction than facial beauty.

Author:  Charles John (Carl Johann) Andersson
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  [6 Apr 1856]
Classmark:  DAR 85: A102
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1850

To Joseph Dalton Hooker   8 April [1856]



Mustering support at Royal Society Council for John Lindley’s Copley Medal. CD thinks Albany Hancock deserves a Royal Medal.

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Joseph Dalton Hooker
Date:  8 Apr [1856]
Classmark:  DAR 114: 160
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-1851
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Darwin in letters, 1856-1857: the 'Big Book'


In May 1856, Darwin began writing up his 'species sketch’ in earnest. During this period, his working life was completely dominated by the preparation of his 'Big Book', which was to be called Natural selection. Using letters are the main…

Matches: 21 hits

  • … On 14 May 1856, Charles Darwin recorded in his journal that he ‘Began by Lyell’s …
  • … Charles Lyell and Joseph Dalton Hooker, who were joined in 1856 by Hooker’s friend the American …
  • … only source of information about his preoccupations during 1856 and 1857. They reveal little noticed …
  • … might work in nature ( letter from Charles Lyell, 1–2 May 1856, n. 10 ). He was surprised that no …
  • … remarked to Hooker ( letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 September [1856] ). I mean to make my …
  • … on plants. Expanding projects set up during 1855 and 1856 (see  Correspondence  vol. 5), he tried …
  • … first two chapters of his species book, completed by October 1856 (‘Journal’; Appendix II). …
  • … Gray, vary in the United States ( letter to Asa Gray, 2 May 1856 )? What about weeds? Did they …
  • … hermaphrodite’ ( letter to to T. H. Huxley, 1 July [1856] ), which became a source of amusement in …
  • … that Asa Gray and Hooker confirmed during the course of 1856. Science at home: the botanical …
  • … many different experiments on plants through the summers of 1856 and 1857, particularly with garden …
  • … have grown well.’ ( letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 December [1856] ). His faith in his ideas …
  • … trees (see letters to William Erasmus Darwin, [26 February 1856] and to Charles Lyell, 3 May …
  • … Waring Darwin, the sixth and last, was born on 6 December 1856) was a constant worry, particularly …
  • … in New South Wales ( letter to Syms Covington, 9 March 1856 ). Many other topics, …
  • … the geological phenomenon of cleavage, still unresolved in 1856, with John Phillips and entered into …
  • … visited the Darwins at Down House for several days in April 1856, and Darwin took this opportunity …
  • … made in a letter written by Lyell from London on 1–2 May 1856. Darwin took the suggestion seriously …
  • … him to write up his views ( letters to J. D. Hooker, 9 May [1856] ). Darwin had also …
  • … At a second weekend party held at Down on 26 and 27 April 1856, he had discussed the question of …
  • … doctrine.’ ( letter from Charles Lyell, 1–2 May 1856, n. 7 ). The excitement and intellectual …

Darwin and Fatherhood


Charles Darwin married Emma Wedgwood in 1839 and over the next seventeen years the couple had ten children. It is often assumed that Darwin was an exceptional Victorian father. But how extraordinary was he? The Correspondence Project allows an unusually…

Matches: 4 hits

  • … were built to the area (Darwin to J. D. Hooker,  8 April [1856] ). This meant that most of the …
  • … family duties (Darwin to W. B. Tegetmeier,  19 November [1856] ) made him unable to travel to many …
  • … his son William,  [30 October 1858] ). In one letter in 1856, he explained his paternal feelings …
  • … in this world.’ (Darwin to Syms Covington,  9 March 1856 ) In the late nineteenth century, …

Dramatisation script


Re: Design – Adaptation of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Asa Gray and others… by Craig Baxter – as performed 25 March 2007

Matches: 2 hits

  • … 21 JULY 1855 14  C DARWIN TO A GRAY, 14 JULY 1856 15  A GRAY TO C DARWIN …
  • … 1855 23  JD HOOKER TO C DARWIN, 9 NOVEMBER 1856 24  C DARWIN TO JD …



Darwin’s most famous work, Origin, had an inauspicious beginning. It grew out of his wish to establish priority for the species theory he had spent over twenty years researching. Darwin never intended to write Origin, and had resisted suggestions in 1856…

Matches: 2 hits

  • … to write Origin, and had resisted suggestions in 1856 that he publish a short version of his …
  • … in persuading Darwin not to publish an abstract in 1856 , Darwin explained to whole affair to him …

Six things Darwin never said – and one he did


Spot the fakes! Darwin is often quoted – and as often misquoted. Here are some sayings regularly attributed to Darwin that never flowed from his pen.

Matches: 1 hits

  • … Spot the fakes! Darwin is often quoted – and as often misquoted. Here are some sayings regularly …

Dates of composition of Darwin's manuscript on species


Many of the dates of letters in 1856 and 1857 were based on or confirmed by reference to Darwin’s manuscript on species (DAR 8--15.1, inclusive; transcribed and published as Natural selection). This manuscript, begun in May 1856, was nearly completed by…

Matches: 5 hits

  • … Many of the dates of letters in 1856 and 1857 were based on or confirmed by reference to Darwin’s …
  • … as Natural selection ). This manuscript, begun in May 1856, was nearly completed by June 1858. At …
  • … 2 13 October 1856 [Variation under domestication] [2] …
  • … 11 13 October 1856 Geographical distribution (DAR 14; …
  • … 3 16 December 1856 On the possibility of all organic …



There are more than five hundred letters associated with the research and writing of Darwin’s book, Descent of man and selection in relation to sex (Descent). They trace not only the tortuous route to eventual publication, but the development of Darwin’s…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … research notes, including letters going back to at least 1856 . Among them were accounts of …

Darwin’s reading notebooks


In April 1838, Darwin began recording the titles of books he had read and the books he wished to read in Notebook C (Notebooks, pp. 319–28). In 1839, these lists were copied and continued in separate notebooks. The first of these reading notebooks (DAR 119…

Matches: 27 hits

  • … [DAR *128: 160] Mansfield’s Paraguay [Mansfield 1856] } read Chesterton Prison Life …
  • … Hutchison Dog Breaking 3 d . Edit [Hutchinson 1856] new information on Pointer & Retriever …
  • … Annal des Sc. Nat. 4 th  Series. Bot. Vol 6 [Naudin 1856]. Read Notes to Jardine & …
  • … 1855 Sept. Tegetmeier on Poultry [Tegetmeier 1856–7] —— 27 th . Mem. de l’Acad. …
  • … Das Ganze der Landwirttschaft [Kirchhof 1835].— 1856. Jan 10 th  G. Colin Traite de …
  • … [Rudolphi 1812] [DAR 128: 16] 1856 Jan 21. Huc’s Chinese Empire [Huc …
  • … Mar 1 Veith Naturgeschichte Haussaugethiere [Veith 1856].— 3 d  Knox Races of Man.— 1850 [R …
  • … 1741–55] d[itt]o [DAR 128: 17] 1856 . Jan 28. Watt’s Life by Muirhead …
  • … [Pepys 1848–9]— April 21 Sandwitt Kars [Sandwith 1856]. [DAR 128: 18] March …
  • … 1851–6] —— Wollaston on Variation [Wollaston 1856] F. Smith on Apidæ [F. Smith 1855] …
  • … 1835 [H. C. Watson 1835] [DAR 128: 20] 1856 June 26. Davis J. Barnard. …
  • … 1855] —— 19 Von Tschudi Alpine life [Tschudi 1856] 30. Brehm Handbuch Vogel …
  • … 1857 Nov. 15. Andersson Lake Gnami [Andersson 1856] —— 26 Slightly skimmed Forbes …
  • … 1765] Oct. 23. Tracings of Iceland Chambers [Chambers 1856]. —— Mansfield Travels in …
  • … 2 vols July D r . Kane’s Arctic Voyage [Kane 1856] Sept. 12. Ch. Napiers Life …
  • … rubbish yet amusing Nov. 15. Tender & True [Spence] 1856]: H. Coverdale [Smedley [1854–6] …
  • … Travels I ever read) Sept. Froude Henry VIII [Froude 1856]. 4 vols very interesting. …
  • … —— 16 Zoologist [ Zoologist ]. up Vol. 14. 1856 May 9 th  Voyage au Pol. Sud. Consid. Gen …
  • … 1859 Feb. 28 Olmstead S. States [Olmsted 1856] (excellent) March 21. Mill on Liberty …
  • … The revised edition of Johnston’s  Physical atlas  (1856) included ‘Map of the distribution of …
  • … 113  The  Cottage Gardener  ceased publication in 1856. 114  CD marked this entry …
  • … vols. London.  119: 14a Andersson, Carl Johan. 1856.  Lake Ngami; or, explorations and   …
  • … [Darwin Library.]  119: 20a; *128: 173 ——. 1856.  Tracings of Iceland and the Faröe …
  • … [Other eds.]  119: 9a Chesterton, George Laval. 1856.  Revelations of prison life;   …
  • … 128: 5 Davis, Joseph Barnard and Thurnam, John. 1856–65.  Crania   Britannica. …
  • … Three visits to Madagascar during   the years 1853, 1854, 1856 . London.  128: 24 …
  • … . Lundæ.  *119: 5v. Froude, James Anthony. 1856.  History of England from the   fall of …

Before Origin: the ‘big book’


Darwin began ‘sorting notes for Species Theory’ on 9 September 1854, the very day he concluded his eight-year study of barnacles (Darwin's Journal). He had long considered the question of species. In 1842, he outlined a theory of transmutation in a…

Matches: 9 hits

  • … naturalist Edward Forbes. Darwin declared to Hooker in July 1856 ‘y ou continental extensionists …
  • … of his old friend, the geologist Charles Lyell, who, in May 1856, twenty months after Darwin had …
  • … urgency to publish and, following Lyell’s advice in May 1856, began to write a sketch his theory. ‘I …
  • … without full details. ’ Writing to his cousin Fox in June 1856, Darwin openly confessed his fears …
  • … work ’ he had ‘desisted’. By November 1856, he had both good and bad news to report to Lyell: ‘ …
  • … press. Although Darwin had decided in the autumn of 1856 to write only from the materials he …
  • … wrote ten and a half chapters of his Big Book between May 1856 and June 1858. With a total of …
  • … length ’, he had complained to Hooker in December 1856. By mid-1858, only the first chapter on …
  • … being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858 (Cambridge University …

Thomas Henry Huxley


Dubbed “Darwin’s bulldog” for his combative role in controversies over evolution, Huxley was a leading Victorian zoologist, science popularizer, and education reformer. He was born in Ealing, a small village west of London, in 1825. With only two years of…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … Owen, and Louis Agassiz (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 9 May 1856 and 21 May 1856). But he considered …

Women’s scientific participation


Observers | Fieldwork | Experimentation | Editors and critics | Assistants Darwin’s correspondence helps bring to light a community of women who participated, often actively and routinely, in the nineteenth-century scientific community. Here is a…

Matches: 2 hits

  • … Letter 1836  - Berkeley, M. J. to Darwin, [7 March 1856] Clergyman and botanist …
  • … Letter 1836  - Berkeley, M. J. to Darwin, [7 March 1856] Clergyman and botanist Miles …

Hermann Müller


Hermann (Heinrich Ludwig Hermann) Müller, was born in Mühlberg near Erfurt in 1829. He was the younger brother of Fritz Müller (1822–97). Following the completion of his secondary education at Erfurt in 1848, he studied natural sciences at Halle and Berlin…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … it was the subject of his first scientific paper (Müller 1856). In the autumn of 1855, Müller …

Scientific Networks


Friendship|Mentors|Class|Gender In its broadest sense, a scientific network is a set of connections between people, places, and things that channel the communication of knowledge, and that substantially determine both its intellectual form and content,…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … Letter 1979 — Darwin, C. R. to Lubbock, John, 27 Oct [1856] Darwin provides detailed …

Correlation of growth: deaf blue-eyed cats, pigs, and poison


As he was first developing his ideas, among the potential problems Darwin recognised with natural selection was how to account for developmental change that conferred no apparent advantage.  He proposed a ‘mysterious law’ of ‘correlation of growth’ where…

Matches: 2 hits

  • … to write up a ‘preliminary essay’ on his views in 1856, he went back to Fox to check his facts, …
  • … the African explorer and army surgeon William Daniell in 1856 was probably in reply to such a …

Darwin in letters, 1872: Job done?


'My career’, Darwin wrote towards the end of 1872, 'is so nearly closed. . .  What little more I can do, shall be chiefly new work’, and the tenor of his correspondence throughout the year is one of wistful reminiscence, coupled with a keen eye…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … `big book’,  Natural selection , begun in 1856.  Coming hard on the heels of  The descent of man …

Begins 'Natural Selection'


Darwin begins writing his 'big book', Natural Selection. The book was never finished, but later formed the basis for On the Origin of Species

Matches: 1 hits

  • … Darwin begins writing his 'big book', Natural Selection. The book was never finished, but …

Language: key letters


How and why language evolved bears on larger questions about the evolution of the human species, and the relationship between man and animals. Darwin presented his views on the development of human speech from animal sounds in The Descent of Man (1871),…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … The origin of language was investigated in a wide range of disciplines in the nineteenth century. …

Tenth child born


The Darwins' tenth and last child, Charles Waring Darwin, is born

Matches: 1 hits

  • … The Darwins' tenth and last child, Charles Waring Darwin, is born …

The writing of "Origin"


From a quiet rural existence at Down in Kent, filled with steady work on his ‘big book’ on the transmutation of species, Darwin was jolted into action in 1858 by the arrival of an unexpected letter (no longer extant) from Alfred Russel Wallace outlining a…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … work preparing his ‘big book’ on species. Begun in May 1856 at the urging of Lyell, the manuscript …

The expression of emotions


Darwin’s work on emotional expression, from notes in his Beagle diary and observations of his own children, to questionnaires, and experiments with photographs, was an integral part of his broad research on human evolution. It provided one of the main…

Matches: 1 hits

  • … his other children followed, and the record was kept through 1856. Darwin’s wife, Emma also recorded …
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