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Letter 6730

Darwin, C. R. to Farrer, T. H.

6 May [1869]

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    Dislikes the use of the term "degradation" as applied to the closed flowers of Viola species. Species with such self-fertilising flowers also have flowers adapted for crossing. The development of closed flowers adapted to ensure a sufficient stock of seed is progressive.


Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

May 6th

My dear Mr Farrer

Thanks for your note. I doubted about degradation, & had not slightest objection to gradation, because I did not like the idea, & knew nothing about the facts.

I disliked & still dislike the idea because I can see no reason for it. V. cornuta (I believe) & certainly V. canina & odorata produce perfect flowers adapted for a cross, & small closed flowers to insure a stock of seed through self-fertilisation. V. tricolor which it seems stands near one end of the series does not produce the small closed flowers, & is only very moderately fertile when the visits of insects are prevented. Hence I can see no meaning in degradation, but every step in progress wd be advantageous.

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

—But to invert a saying of Agassiz ``Nature often lies'' & does things quite contrary to theory.—

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 6730.f1
    The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from T. H. Farrer, 5 May 1869.
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    f2 6730.f2
    See letter from T. H. Farrer, 5 May 1869 and n. 1. CD refers to different species of Viola.
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    f3 6730.f3
    Louis Agassiz, responding to reports of observations opposed to his theory about when saurians were first created, claimed he did not believe them, `for Nature never lied' (See Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Asa Gray, 1 January [1857]).
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