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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Maw   17 March [1861]

Down Bromley Kent

March 17th

Dear Sir

I am much obliged for your striking note. Your remarks on the races of man are interesting; but I have been particularly struck with your observations on the classification of mineral bodies. The idea had crossed my mind in a very vague & feeble manner: it is so difficult to be honest that I fear that I must have unconsciously banished the idea as disagreeable. I see now the full force of the difficulty & I will make a note not to forget this subject. I must own that classification may be closely like that due to descent & yet have no relation to it. I am grateful for your excellent criticism.—1

I am very sorry to say that at present I do not feel inclined to subscribe to the testimonial to Mr Newman. I have not a shade of feeling against Mr Newman; on the contrary I have much respect for his labours. But to t〈he〉 best of my judgment, it seems hardly a case for a testimonial. If one is given to him; I think there are others with at least equal claims— This is my only objection. I will, however, talk with some other naturalists, & I hope my objection may be got over.—2

Dear Sir | Yours sincerely obliged | Charles Darwin

P.S. | As you have been so great an observer, I ask two questions for remote chance of your having facts.— Have you sown seed of weeping trees & what were seedlings?

Have you observed any remarkable cases (excluding mere variegations of leaves) of branch or bud sports, (or as I shall call such cases “bud-variations”) in leaves, flowers, or fruits.— e.g. nectarines on peach-trees—provence Roses on Moss-roses.—3 Do not, pray, answer unless you have any facts.—4


CD included a reference to the analogy between mineralogical classification and classification in the organic realm in the fourth edition of Origin published in 1866 (Origin 4th ed., p. 488).
The presentation of the testimonial to Newman was announced in the Zoologist 1861: 7457–62. CD was not listed among the subscribers.
CD defined bud-variation as including ‘all those sudden changes in structure or appearance which occasionally occur in full-grown plants in their flower-buds or leaf-buds.’ (Variation 1: 373).
CD included information provided by Maw about varieties of scarlet pelargonium showing unusual correlations in Variation 2: 330–1.


Thanks GM for his excellent criticisms. His observations on the classification of minerals force him to "own that classification may be closely like that due to descent yet have no relation to it".

Asks whether GM has observed any cases of "bud-variations".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Maw
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Horticultural Society, Lindley Library (MAW/1/4)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3090,” accessed on 26 August 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9