skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alphonse de Candolle1   3 June 1866

Londres

3 Juin 1866

Mon cher Monsieur

je viens de passer 15 jours à Londres de la manière la plus agréable. Une chose cependant me fait de la peine, mais comme elle resulte seulement d’une erreur de ma part je suis bien aise de vous l’expliquer. La première fois que j’ai assisté à une séance du Comité relatif au Congrès botanique j’ai demandé de vos nouvelles et si nous aurions le plaisir de vous voir.2 Un de ces messieurs m’a repondu que vous etiez malade et il a ajouté (ou j’ai mal compris ce qu’il a dit en anglais) que vous étiez absent. J’ai cru que vous etiez allé dans le midi et avec beaucoup de regrets j’ai renoncé à l’idée de vous rencontrer. Ensuite j’ai appris par Mr Caspary3 et par Sir Charles Lyell que vous êtes à la campagne, mais c’etait trop tard pour que je puisse aller vous presenter mes compliments. Permettez moi de vous dire que c’est un véritable sujet de regrets pour moi, d’autant plus que nous allons nous diriger, madame de Candolle4 et moi, du côté d’Oxford et du nord de la Grande Bretagne, de sorte qu’il ne me sera pas possible de reparer ma négligence.

Sir Charles Lyell et vous n’avez peutêtre pas une idée très exacte de ce que Mr Lecoq a dit sur les plantes d’Auvergne et sur l’epoque glaciaire.5 J’avais l’impression qu’il a surtout combattu l’idée d’un abaissement de température comme cause de l’extension des glaciers et qu’il a insisté sur la possibilité de grands glaciers quand il y a beaucoup d’humidité dans l’air. Je n’ai pas le souvenir qu’il ait nié completement l’epoque glaciaire.6 Il a insisté sur la possibilité de transports de graines a de grandes distances par les vents, oiseaux etc, ce que j’ai examiné soigneusement, et je persiste, pour mon compte, a croire—qu’on a pris souvent des possibilités pour des réalités.7 L’observation m’a montré que dans 2 ou 3 siècles, dans les pays où l’on a le plus observé, aucune phanerogame ne s’est naturalisée autrement qu’a la suite d’une action directe ou indirecte de l’homme. Il faudra lire le discours improvisé de Lecoq, dans le Compte rendu pour s’en faire mieux l’idée.8

Mr Ruprecht a publié en allemand dans le Bulletin de l’Academie de St Petersbourg un mêmoire curieux sur la terre noire du midi de la Russie.9 Il prouve par les debris végétaux et par l’absence de tout dépôt marin ou autre sur cette terre que c’etait une île considérable remontant à l’époque tertiaire, où les graminées ont formé une énorme accumulation de detritus. Alors nous aurions là une source de nos végétaux d’Europe, avant et pendant l’epoque glaciaire. J’ai fait traduire cet article pour la Bibliotheque universelle de Genève, a fin de pouvoir mieux le comprendre, car à premiere lecture d’un texte allemand assez mal redigé je ne puis pas apprecier bien l’opinion de l’auteur.10 J’ai lieu de croire Mr Ruprecht un bon observateur et ce quil dit meritera votre attention ainsi que celle de Sir Charles et des autres géologues—

Agréer, mon cher Monsieur, l’assurance de mon dévouement très sincère et tous mes vœux pour une amélioration dans votre santé | Alph. de Candolle

PS. Mes respects, je vous prie, à Madame Charles Darwin.

CD annotations

2.10 aucune] cross after, pencil

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol.14, Appendix I.
Candolle had delivered the presidential address at the opening meeting of the International Horticultural Exhibition and Botanical Congress on 23 May 1866 (A. de Candolle 1866). CD was on the congress committee, but did not attend the meeting for reasons of health (see letter from M. T. Masters, March 1866, and letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 16 May [1866]). CD had been invited to two dinner parties at which Candolle was to be present (letter from J. E. Gray, 9 April 1866, and letter from C. W. Dilke, 24 April 1866), and had asked Joseph Dalton Hooker to convey his regrets at not seeing Candolle in London (letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 May [1866] and n. 8).
Robert Caspary had attended the Botanical Congress, and had visited CD at Down (letter from Robert Caspary, 7 May 1866 and n. 3).
Jeanne-Victoire-Laure de Candolle.
See letter from M. T. Masters, 20 April 1866. Maxwell Tylden Masters had informed CD of a paper on the migration of plants to be delivered by Henri Lecoq at the International Horticultural Exhibition and Botanical Congress (Lecoq 1866). CD had been corresponding at length with Charles Lyell about plant dispersal during the glacial period (see, for example, letter to Charles Lyell, 7 February [1866]).
Candolle refers to Lecoq 1866.
Franz Josef Ruprecht’s paper, ‘Neuere geo-botanische Untersuchungen über den Tschornosjom’ (New geo-botanical studies of the Russian black earth), appeared in the 1866 volume of the Bulletin de l’Académie Impériale des Sciences de St.-Pétersbourg (Ruprecht 1865).
Candolle refers to Ruprecht 1866. Ruprecht published mainly in Russian; for a bibliography of his works, see Bulletin de l’Académie Impériale des Sciences de St.-Pétersbourg 16 (1871): Supplement.

Translation

From Alphonse de Candolle1   3 June 1866

London

3 June 1866

My dear Sir.

I have just spent 15 days in London in a most agreeable manner. One thing, however, distresses me, but since it was the result of an error on my part alone, I am happy enough to explain it to you. The first time that I attended a meeting of the Committee in connection with the Botanical Congress, I asked for news about you and whether we would have the pleasure of seeing you.2 One of the gentlemen answered me that you were ill, and he added (or I misunderstood what he said in English) that you were absent. I understood that you were going on a trip to the south and with many regrets I gave up the idea of meeting you. Later I learned from Mr Caspary3 and Sir Charles Lyell that you were in the country, but it was too late for me to be able to present my compliments. Allow me to tell you that I really regretted this, especially since Madame de Candolle4 and I are going to travel in the vicinity of Oxford and to the north of Great Britain so that it will not be possible to put right my negligence.

Perhaps you and Sir Charles Lyell do not have a very precise idea of what Mr Lecoq said about plants from the Auvergne and about the glacial period.5 I had the impression that he particularly objected to the idea of lowered temperature as a cause of glacial extension and that he insisted on the possibility of large glaciers when there was a great deal of humidity in the air. I do not recall that he completely denied that there had been a glacial period.6 He insisted on the possibility of the transportation of seeds over great distances by wind, birds, etc, which I carefully investigated and I persist, personally, in believing that one has often taken possibilities for realities.7 Observation has shown me that in 2 or 3 centuries, in the countries where most research has been carried out, no phanerogam has been naturalised except through the direct or indirect action of man. One will have to read the improvised lecture by Lecoq in the Proceedings to get a better idea of this.8

Mr Ruprecht has published in German in the Bulletin de l’Academie de St Petersbourg a curious memoir on the black earth of south Russia.9 He proved through plant remains and the absence of any marine or other sediment in the soil that it was a substantial island dating back to the tertiary era, in which the grasses formed an enormous accumulation of detritus. Consequently we might have there a source for our European vegetation before and after the glacial period. I had this article translated for the Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève in order to understand it better, because at first reading of a badly edited German text I could not easily understand the author’s opinion.10 I have reason to believe that Mr Ruprecht is a good observer and what he said will merit your attention as well as that of Sir Charles and the other geologists.

Accept, my dear Sir, the assurance of my sincere devotion and all my best wishes for an improvement in your health | Alph. de Candolle.|

P.S. Please pay my respects to Madame Charles Darwin.

Footnotes

For a transcription of htis letter in its original French, see pp. 194–5.
Candolle had delivered the presidential address at the opening meeting of the International Horticultural Exhibition and Botanical Congress on 23 May 1866 (A. de Candolle 1866). CD was on the congress committee, but did not attend the meeting for reasons of health (see letter from M. T. Masters, March 1866, and letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 16 May [1866]). CD had been invited to two dinner parties at which Candolle was to be present (letter from J. E. Gray, 9 April 1866, and letter from C. W. Dilke, 24 April 1866), and had asked Joseph Dalton Hooker to convey his regrets at not seeing Candolle in London (letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 May [1866] and n. 8).
Robert Caspary had attended the Botanical Congress, and had visited CD at Down (letter from Robert Caspary, 7 May 1866 and n. 3).
Jeanne-Victoire-Laure de Candolle.
See letter from M. T. Masters, 20 April 1866. Maxwell Tylden Masters had informed CD of a paper on the migration of plants to be delivered by Henri Lecoq at the International Horticultural Exhibition and Botanical Congress (Lecoq 1866). CD had been corresponding at length with Charles Lyell about plant dispersal during the glacial period (see, for example, letter to Charles Lyell, 7 February [1866]).
Candolle refers to Lecoq 1866.
Franz Josef Ruprecht’s paper, ‘Neuere geo-botanische Untersuchungen über den Tschornosjom’ (New geo-botanical studies of the Russian black earth), appeared in the 1866 volume of the Bulletin de l’Académie Impériale des Sciences de St.-Pétersbourg (Ruprecht 1865).
Candolle refers to Ruprecht 1866. Ruprecht published mainly in Russian; for a bibliography of his works, see Bulletin de l’Académie Impériale des Sciences de St.-Pétersbourg 16 (1871): Supplement.

Summary

In London for the Botanical Congress; regrets missing CD.

Lyell and CD have mistaken H. Lecoq’s position on glaciers. He has not denied the possibility of a glacial period, only that decreased temperature is needed for their extension.

Recommends F. J. Ruprecht on vegetable detritus in the black earth chernozem of Russia.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-5111
From
Alphonse de Candolle
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London
Source of text
DAR 161: 12
Physical description
4pp (French)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5111,” accessed on 24 September 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-5111.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14

letter