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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. J. Romanes   14 January 1875

18 Cornwall Terrace, Regent’s Park, N.W.:

January 14, 1875.

Dear Mr. Darwin,—

I should very much like to see the papers to which you allude.1 A priori one would have thought the bisecting plan the more hopeful, but if the other has yielded positive results, in the case of an eye and tubers, I think it would be worth while to try the effect of transplanting various kinds of pips into the pulps of kindred varieties of fruit; for the homological relations in this case would be pretty much the same as in the other, with the exception of the bud being an impregnated one. If positive results ensued, however, this last-mentioned fact would be all the better for ‘Pangenesis.’2

You have doubtless observed the very remarkable case given in the ‘Gardener’s Chronicle’ for January 2— I mean the vine in which the scion appears to have notably affected the stock.3 Altogether vines seem very promising; and as their buds admit of being planted in the ground, it would be much more easy to try the bisecting plan in their case than in others, where one half-bud, besides requiring to be fitted to the other half, has also to have its shield fitted into the bark. All one’s energies might then be expended in coaxing adhesion, and if once this were obtained, I think there would here be the best chance of obtaining a hybrid; for then all, or nearly all, the cells of the future branch would be in the state of gemmules. I am very sanguine about the buds growing under these circumstances, for the vigour with which bisected seeds germinate is perfectly astonishing.

Very sincerely and most respectfully yours, | Geo. J. Romanes.

P.S.—I have been to see Dr. Hooker, and found his kindness and courtesy quite what you led me to expect.4 Such men are rare.


CD had offered to lend Romanes a copy of a German journal containing accounts of graft hybrids produced by inserting buds from one potato into another rather than by bisecting and joining potatoes (letter to G. J. Romanes, 13 January [1875]).
Chapter 27 of Variation, ‘Provisional hypothesis of pangenesis’, outlined CD’s ideas regarding heredity; CD suggested that minute particles (gemmules) circulated in the bodily fluids and were capable of generating new cells, remaining dormant until required. He thought his hypothesis could explain both sexual and asexual reproduction, as well as reversion and the regrowth of body parts.
In the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 2 January 1875, p. 21, under the heading ‘Singular sport upon a grape vine’, appeared a description of a vine consisting of a rootstock of one variety with rods of three other varieties grafted onto it. After the rod of one variety was cut off, below the point of union with the rootstock, grapes of that variety began to appear on the rod of another variety, along with grapes proper to that rod.
CD had asked Joseph Dalton Hooker to help Romanes with his work on grafting (see Correspondence vol. 22, letters to G. J. Romanes, 16 December 1874 and 23 December 1874, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 20 December 1874).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Would like to see papers [on potato grafting] mentioned by CD.

CD has doubtless seen case in Gardeners’ Chronicle of vine in which scion has affected the stock [P. Grieve, "Singular sport upon a grape vine", Gard. Chron. (1875): 21].

Letter details

Letter no.
George John Romanes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Cornwall Terrace, 18
Source of text
E. D. Romanes 1896, pp. 19–20

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9816,” accessed on 6 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23