This might be tried with drakes or peacocks, but no one would be willing to spoil for a season his peacocks. I have no strength or opportunity of watching my own poultry, otherwise I would try it. I would very gladly repay all expenses of loss of value of the poultry, etc. But, as I said, I have written on the most improbable chance of your interesting any one to make the trial, or having time and inclination yourself to make it. Another, and perhaps better, mode of making the trial would be to turn down to some hens two or three cocks, one being injured in its plumage.
I am glad to say that I have begun correcting proofs. (427/2. "The Variation of Animals and Plants.") I hope that you received safely the skulls which you so kindly lent me.
LETTER 428. TO W.B. TEGETMEIER. Down, March 30th .
I am much obliged for your note, and shall be truly obliged if you will insert any question on the subject. That is a capital remark of yours about the trimmed game cocks, and shall be quoted by me. (428/1. "Descent of Man," Edition I., Volume II., page 117. "Mr. Tegetmeier is convinced that a game cock, though disfigured by being dubbed with his hackles trimmed, would be accepted as readily as a male retaining all his natural ornaments.") Nevertheless I am still inclined from many facts strongly to believe that the beauty of the male bird determines the choice of the female with wild birds, however it may be under domestication. Sir R. Heron has described how one pied peacock was extra attentive to the hens. This is a subject which I must take up as soon as my present book is done.
I shall be most particularly obliged to you if you will dye with magenta a pigeon or two. (428/2. "Mr. Tegetmeier, at my request, stained some of his birds with magenta, but they were not much noticed by the others."-- "Descent of Man" (1901), page 637.) Would it not be better to dye the tail alone and crown of head, so as not to make too great difference? I shall be very curious to hear how an entirely crimson pigeon will be received by the others as well as his mate.
P.S.--Perhaps the best experiment, for my purpose, would be to colour a young unpaired male and turn him with other pigeons, and observe whether he was longer or quicker than usual in mating.
LETTER 429. TO A.R. WALLACE. Down, April 29th .
I have been greatly interested by your letter, but your view is not new to me. (429/1. We have not been able to find Mr. Wallace's letter to which this is a reply. It evidently refers to Mr. Wallace's belief in the paramount importance of protection in the evolution of colour. This is clear from the P.S. to the present letter and from the passages in the "Origin" referred to. The first reference, Edition IV., page 240, is as follows: "We can sometimes plainly see the proximate cause of the transmission of ornaments to the males alone; for a pea-hen with the long tail of the male bird would be badly fitted to sit on her eggs, and a coal- black female capercailzie would be far more conspicuous on her nest, and more exposed to danger, than in her present modest attire." The passages in Edition I. (pages 89, 101) do not directly bear on the question of protection.) If you will look at page 240 of the fourth edition of the "Origin" you will find it very briefly given with two extreme examples of the peacock and black grouse. A more general statement is given at page 101, or at page 89 of the first edition, for I have long entertained this view, though I have never had space to develop it. But I had not sufficient knowledge to generalise as far as you do about colouring and nesting. In your paper perhaps you will just allude to my scanty remark in the fourth edition, because in my Essay on Man I intend to discuss the whole subject of sexual selection, explaining as I believe it does much with respect to man. I have collected all my old notes, and partly written my discussion, and it would be flat work for me to give the leading idea as exclusively from you.