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Record number: WCP1601

Sent by:
John Jenner Weir
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
22 January 1893

Sent by John Jenner Weir, Chirbury, Beckenham, Kent to Alfred Russel Wallace, [Corfe View, Parkstone, Dorset] on 22 January 1893.

Record created:
23 May 2011 by NHM


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LETTER (WCP1601.1380)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP6/12/10
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the John Jenner Weir Literary Estate.

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Transcription information




Chirbury, Beckenham

22 Jan[uary] 1893

Dear Dr. Wallace

I am glad I drew your attention in my last letter to the difficulty, and in some cases impossibility, of moulting birds in captivity without their richer colors being more or less improvised, I may say that, amongst other species the Bullfinch gradually lose the crimsin[sic] breast in captivity and sometimes that joint of the body becomes quite orange.--

[[2]] It is singular that the nine Really domestic bids in no way become less rich in color under domestication, but on the contrary some breeds have even richer colors in the domestic than in the wild state

I should not have troubled you with this letter, but I thought it may be unknown to you that food makes a marked difference in the color of cage birds, of course the mechanism of Bullfinches and other birds is brought about easily [[3]] by a diet of hempseed.--

But the most remarkable case is that of the Canary2, this kind if fed from the nest on a proportion of Cayenne pepper changes in color from a pale lemon yellow to a very deep almost orange golden yellow, without the health of the birds being in any way injured.--

I merely mention this because it is possible that some of the gorgeous colors of tropical birds may be perhaps partially [[4]] the result of their food.--

I could not bring my mind to the idea[?] that sexual selection had anything to do with the brilliant colors of male Lepidoptera3, and thus my belief in it as a factor in the production of the color of the males in polygamous birds was shaken.--

Do not trouble yourself to reply to this letter, it may contain nothing worth reading and probably does not.--

Kind regards to Mrs. Wallace | From | Yours very truly | J Jenner Weir4 [signature]

Dr A. R Wallace


1. "[WP6/12/10]" is written in the top left corner in pencil

2. Refers to the Canary (Serinus canaria) a passerine bird in the Fringillidae family

3. Lepidoptera is an order of insects including moths and butterflies

4. John Jenner Weir, entomologist and ornithologist, lived 1822 - 1894

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