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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alphonse de Candolle1   15 July 1868

Genève

15 Juillet 1868.

Mon cher Monsieur

je suis heureux de penser que vous avez trouvé quelque chose de bon dans les notes que j’ai pris la liberté de vous adresser, mais c’est un motif pour ne pas laisser sans correction une erreur de fait dans la quelle je suis tombé au sujet du Robinia pseudo-acacia.2 Je ne sais comment j’ai dit que les épines sont des aiguillons, c’est à dire des endurcissements superficiels des rameaux, et non des organes métamorphosés. Hier en me promenant j’ai vu mon erreur. Ces épines sont des stipules. Par consequent il n’est pas extraordinaire que leur production se maintienne avec une certaine obstination par hérédité. Dans les plantes qui ont des Stipules on voit bien rarement cet organe faire défaut, aussi quand il manque accidentellement il doit reparaitre facilement par les graines.3 Je ne comprends pas comment j’avais fait l’erreur. Ayez la bonté d’effacer dans ma lettre la phrase où elle se trouve.

Vous voyez dans la mobilité des muscles de la tête dans une certaine famille un exemple de reversion à une grande antiquité de l’homme. Je persiste à croire que ce caractère doit être commun chez les peuples du midi de l’Europe, où la physionomie est très mobile, et que pour la famille en question c’est une persistance témoignant d’une origine greco-latine. Si votre explication doit être publiée, il serais bon, je crois, de la donner pour l’ensemble de populations méridionales, plutot que pour une famille en particulier.4 Comme complement de renseignements j’ajouterai que la dite famille s’est bien maintenue dans le struggle du monde, depuis plusieurs siècles et que l’exterieur de la tête n’a rien de particulier chez elle, la mobilité n’etant pas dans ce cas accompagnée de grosseur des muscles.

Je vous suis fort obligé des informations sur la suite de vos publications. L’ouvrage sur l’origine de l’homme interessera beaucoup le grand public. Quant à moi je regrette que l’autre ne précéde pas, mais je comprends votre fatigue et j’admire votre activité dans des circonstances de santé malheureusement défavorables.5

Agréez, mon cher Monsieur, l’assurance de tout mon dévouement | Alph. de Candolle

PS. Oserai-je vous prier de me rappeler au souvenir de Madame Charles Darwin? Je ne suis pas encore consolé de ce qu’un renseignement inexact m’avait fait croire que vous étiez en voyage lorsque j’etais à Londres en 1866.6

CD annotations

2.1 Vous voyez …] ‘He attributes moveable muscle to family being partly [del illeg] Graeco Latin—’ pencil
2.4 la famille … bien maintenue 2.8] double scored pencil
5.1 PS.... Darwin?] scored pencil
5.1 PS.... 1866. 5.3] crossed blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘More | Inheritance) | Rudimentary’ pencil

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix I.
In modern botanical terms, a prickle (Candolle’s ‘aiguillons’ or ‘needles’) is a woody outgrowth from the epidermis of a plant, while a spine (Candolle’s ‘stipules’) is a modified leaf (Penguin dictionary of botany). Robinia pseudoacacia has spines.
See letter from Alphonse de Candolle, 2 July 1868 and n. 6. In Descent 1: 20, CD did not follow Candolle’s suggestion of attributing mobility of the scalp muscles to all southern populations.
See letter to Alphonse de Candolle, 6 July 1868 and n. 3. Candolle refers to Descent; ‘the other’ is CD’s proposed work on variation in nature, the struggle for existence, and the principle of natural selection, which was not published in his lifetime.

Translation

From Alphonse de Candolle1   15 July 1868

Geneva

15 July 1868

My dear Sir,

I am happy to think that you found something good in the notes that I took the liberty of sending you, but that is a reason for not leaving uncorrected an error of fact into which I fell concerning Robinia pseudo-acacia.2 I do not know why I said that the thorns are needles, that is to say superficial indurations of the twigs, rather than metamorphosed organs. Yesterday while out walking I saw my mistake. These thorns are stipules. Therefore there is nothing extraordinary in the fact that their production tends to persist unchanged during inheritance. It is rare to see plants with stipules lacking that organ, and even when it is missing, it must easily reappear from seed.3 I do not understand how I made the mistake. Have the goodness to strike the phrase where it appears from my letter.

In the mobility of the head muscles in a certain family, you see an example of reversion to man’s high antiquity. I continue to believe that this character must be common amongst the peoples of Southern Europe, where physiognomy is very mobile, and that for the family in question it is a survival testifying a Greco-Latin origin. If your explanation is to be published, it would be good, I think, to extend it to all Southern populations, rather than to one family in particular.4 As a supplement to this information I will add that the family in question has maintained itself well in the struggle of the world, for several centuries and that there is nothing unusual in the external appearance of the head in this family, mobility not being in this case accompanied by enlarged muscles.

I am greatly obliged to you for the information about the order of your publications. The work on the origin of man will be of great interest for the general public. For my part, I regret that the other will not appear first, but I understand your fatigue and I admire your activity under sadly unfavourable conditions of health.5

Please accept, my dear Sir, the assurance of all my devotion | Alph. de Candolle

P.S. Could I venture to beg you to remember me to Madame Charles Darwin? I am still upset that an inaccurate piece of information made me believe that you were on a journey when I was in London in 1866.6

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original French, see part II: 629–30.
In modern botanical terms, a prickle (Candolle’s ‘aiguillons’ or ‘needles’) is a woody outgrowth from the epidermis of a plant, while a spine (Candolle’s ‘stipules’) is a modified leaf (Penguin dictionary of botany). Robinia pseudoacacia has spines.
See letter from Alphonse de Candolle, 2 July 1868 and n. 6. In Descent 1: 20, CD did not follow Candolle’s suggestion of attributing mobility of the scalp muscles to all southern populations.
See letter to Alphonse de Candolle, 6 July 1868 and n. 3. Candolle refers to Descent; ‘the other’ is CD’s proposed work on variation in nature, the struggle for existence, and the principle of natural selection, which was not published in his lifetime.

Summary

Corrects himself on Robinia pseud-acacia: its spines are stipules, which explains hereditary fixity.

AdeC’s observations on movement of scalp muscles.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-6277
From
Alphonse de Candolle
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Geneva
Source of text
DAR 161: 15
Physical description
3pp (French) †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6277,” accessed on 23 August 2019, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-6277

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16

letter