skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Meehan   3 October 1875

Down. | Beckenham. Kent.

Oct. 3. 1875.

My dear Sir.

I received several days ago either from you or some one else, the New York Independent & was much gratified by the excellent review of my book.—1 Yesterday I received the Press. with your Essay.—2 I am glad that the parts which you have marked are not accurate, for as given they are almost a burlesque, on what Lubbock & that excellent observer H. Müller have said.3

I have this day begun to prepare for press observations continued for 10 years on the effects of crossing plants, & I think that these will convince you & every one else that it is a great advantage to plants to intercross—4 It is however still more important for every plant to propagate itself by self fertilization unless crosses can be effected with much certainty— I am very much obliged for your kind letter & remain my dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Ch Darwin.


CD’s copy of the unsigned review of Insectivorous plants US ed. that appeared in a New York newspaper, the Independent, 9 September 1875, p. 10, is in DAR 139.18: 10.
In August 1875, Meehan had presented a paper at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ‘Are insects any material aid to plants in fertilization?’ (Meehan 1875). CD’s copy of the version of Meehan’s paper that was reprinted in the Philadelphia Press, 13 August 1875, has not been found.
It is not known which parts of the essay were marked as ‘not accurate’ by Meehan, but the conclusion is as given in Meehan 1875, p. 251. Meehan argued that insects played a limited role in plant fertilisation and that self-fertilised plants were as vigorous as and more productive than those dependent on insect aid. Both John Lubbock and Hermann Müller had recently written on the importance of insects in aiding fertilisation, describing the adaptations of both insects and flowers to ensure cross-fertilisation (see Lubbock 1875, and H. Müller 1873 and 1873–7).
In his ‘Journal’, CD noted that he began writing Cross and self fertilisation on 1 September 1875, but this may be an error, since he also noted that he was working on corrections to Variation 2d ed. until 3 October 1875 (see Appendix II). In Cross and self fertilisation he extended his earlier morphological work on flower adaptation to study the progeny of crossed and self-fertilised plants over several generations.


Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Insectivorous plants US ed. By Charles Darwin. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1875.

Meehan, Thomas. 1875. Are insects any material aid to plants in fertilization? Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 24: 243–51.

Müller, Hermann. 1873. Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten und die gegenseitigen Anpassungen beider. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntniss des ursächlichen Zusammenhanges in der organischen Natur. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.


Comments on review [of Insectivorous plants] in New York Independent.

Working on Cross and self-fertilisation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Meehan
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 146: 354
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10181,” accessed on 26 January 2020,

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