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Letter NEWHM:1996.H67.651

Earl Ravensworth to John Hancock (20 February 1878)

Ravensworth asks Hancock’s opinion on a Mallard duck he has recently shot which is exhibiting male plumage.




Ravensworth Castle 


Feby. 20.

Dear Sir

The Duck with the Drake’s Plumage which I informed you of, was sent in to me this morning & I send her on to you.  She is in beautiful Plumage & very fresh & probably will be very good eating — I hope you will examine attentively the generative organs — for probably [p.2] they will exhibit some peculiarity — The Bird is of the true Wild breed, & the change has been noticed coming on after successive moults –

The Plumage is exceedingly [1 words illeg. possibly pretty?] & much varied –

Yrs. Sincerely | Ravensworth [signature]





1.  Henry Thomas Liddell, 1st Earl of Ravensworth (1797 – 1878) was a British peer and Member of Parliament. He was a member of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne from its inception in 1829 until his death, serving as a Vice-President.

His death, at Ravensworth Castle on 19 March 1878, was sudden, just a month after this letter was written.

“Born March 10th, 1797, he was educated at Eton and St. John’s, Cambridge. After travelling in Europe and visiting the principal cities, Paris, Rome, Berlin, and Vienna he returned to Ravensworth where, in 1820, he married Isabella Horatio, eldest daughter of Lord George Seymour. During the course of his political career he was M.P. for Northumberland, Durham and Liverpool, but gave up the seat in Liverpool when he entered the House of Lords on the death of his father. A man of culture, he was an accomplished artist, poet and writer. A Latin scholar, he translated the Odes of Horace. From 1861 to 1878 he was President of the Newcastle upon Tyne Society of Antiquaries.” He was created an Earl in 1874 by Queen Victoria and became 1st Earl of Ravensworth and Baron Eslington.

Extract taken from the website of the Sunniside Local History Society where you can learn more about the Ravensworth family and their home or for Liddell’s literary achievements click here.

2.  Wild female Mallard Anas platyrhynchos.

For Hancock’s reply see Letter 652.