Letter 153 To Wb Tegetmeier

(153/1. The following letter also bears on the question of the artificial production of sterility.)

Down, 27th [December, 1862].

The present plan is to try whether any existing breeds happen to have acquired accidentally any degree of sterility; but to this point hereafter. The enclosed MS. will show what I have done and know on the subject. Please at some future time carefully return the MS. to me. If I were going to try again, I would prefer Turbit with Carrier or Dragon.

I will suggest an analogous experiment, which I have had for two years in my experimental book with "be sure and try," but which, as my health gets yearly weaker and weaker and my other work increases, I suppose I shall never try. Permit me to add that if 5 pounds would cover the expenses of the experiment, I should be delighted to give it, and you could publish the result if there be any result. I crossed the Spanish cock (your bird) and white Silk hen and got plenty of eggs and chickens; but two of them seemed to be quite sterile. I was then sadly overdone with work, but have ever since much reproached myself that I did not preserve and carefully test the procreative power of these hens. Now, if you are inclined to get a Spanish cock and a couple of white Silk hens, I shall be most grateful to hear whether the offspring breed well: they will prove, I think, not hardy; if they should prove sterile, which I can hardly believe, they will anyhow do for the pot. If you do try this, how would it do to put a Silk cock to your curious silky Cochin hen, so as to get a big silk breed; it would be curious if you could get silky fowl with bright colours. I believe a Silk hen crossed by any other breed never gives silky feathers. A cross from Silk cock and Cochin Silk hen ought to give silky feathers and probably bright colours.

I have been led lately from experiments (not published) on dimorphism to reflect much on sterility from hybridism, and partially to change the opinion given in "Origin." I have now letters out enquiring on the following point, implied in the experiment, which seems to me well worth trying, but too laborious ever to be attempted. I would ask every pigeon and fowl fancier whether they have ever observed, in the same breed, a cock A paired to a hen B which did not produce young. Then I would get cock A and match it to a hen of its nearest blood; and hen B to its nearest blood. I would then match the offspring of A (viz., a, b, c, d, e) to the offspring of B (viz., f, g, h, i, j), and all those children which were fertile together should be destroyed until I found one--say a, which was not quite fertile with--say, i. Then a and i should be preserved and paired with their parents A and B, so as to try and get two families which would not unite together; but the members WITHIN each family being fertile together. This would probably be quite hopeless; but he who could effect this would, I believe, solve the problem of sterility from hybridism. If you should ever hear of individual fowls or pigeons which are sterile together, I should be very grateful to hear of the case. It is a parallel case to those recorded of a man not impotent long living with a woman who remained childless; the husband died, and the woman married again and had plenty of children. Apparently (by no means certainly) this first man and woman were dissimilar in their sexual organisation. I conceive it possible that their offspring (if both had married again and both had children) would be sexually dissimilar, like their parents, or sterile together. Pray forgive my dreadful writing; I have been very unwell all day, and have no strength to re-write this scrawl. I am working slowly on, and I suppose in three or four months shall be ready.

I am sure I do not know whether any human being could understand or read this shameful scrawl.

LETTER 154. TO T.H. HUXLEY. Down, December, 28th [1862].

I return enclosed: if you write, thank Mr. Kingsley for thinking of letting me see the sound sense of an Eastern potentate. (154/1. Kingsley's letter to Huxley, dated December 20th, 1862, contains a story or parable of a heathen Khan in Tartary who was visited by a pair of proselytising Moollahs. The first Moollah said: "Oh! Khan, worship my God. He is so wise that he made all things." But Moollah No. 2 won the day by pointing out that his God is "so wise that he makes all things make themselves.") All that I said about the little book (154/2. The six "Lectures to Working Men," published in six pamphlets and in book-form in 1863. Mr. Huxley considered that Mr. Darwin's argument required the production by man's selection of breeds which should be mutually infertile, and thus resemble distinct species physiologically as well as morphologically.) is strictly my opinion; it is in every way excellent, and cannot fail to do good the wider it is circulated. Whether it is worth your while to give up time to it is another question for you alone to decide; that it will do good for the subject is beyond all question. I do not think a dunce exists who could not understand it, and that is a bold saying after the extent to which I have been misunderstood. I did not understand what you required about sterility: assuredly the facts given do not go nearly so far. We differ so much that it is no use arguing. To get the degree of sterility you expect in recently formed varieties seems to me simply hopeless. It seems to me almost like those naturalists who declare they will never believe that one species turns into another till they see every stage in process.

I have heard from Tegetmeier, and have given him the result of my crosses of the birds which he proposes to try, and have told him how alone I think the experiment could be tried with the faintest hope of success--namely, to get, if possible, a case of two birds which when paired were unproductive, yet neither impotent. For instance, I had this morning a letter with a case of a Hereford heifer, which seemed to be, after repeated trials, sterile with one particular and far from impotent bull, but not with another bull. But it is too long a story--it is to attempt to make two strains, both fertile, and yet sterile when one of one strain is crossed with one of the other strain. But the difficulty...would be beyond calculation. As far as I see, Tegetmeier's plan would simply test whether two existing breeds are now in any slight degree sterile; which has already been largely tested: not that I dispute the good of re-testing.

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