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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hewett Cottrell Watson to George Gordon   19 September 1860

Thames Ditton

19 Sept 60

My dear Sir

I took the liberty of giving your address to Mr. Darwin, anxiously inquiring how he could procure some living examples of Goodyeræ.—1 His name would doubtless be known to you, & more favourably than any introduction by me. But you will perhaps still allow me to express sincere thanks for your kindness in so promptly responding to his application.2 He seems highly pleased with the successfulness of his application.—3

Mr. D. takes immensity of pains in putting his theoretic views to the test of observation & experiment; &, as a true seeker of truth, deserves all help & encouragement, whether or not we adopt his theoretic views.— The more I cogitate on those views, the more I feel that there must be some fallacy or insufficiency which vitiates ideas partly sound & important. ‘Natural Selection’ is a fact, & a vera causa. Can it operate to the extent Darwin contends?—or, is it not also checked and counterbalance by some other provision or prevision?4

Yours, Red Sir, | Very truly | Hewett C. Watson

The Revd | G. Gordon


The letter from Watson to CD has not been found. Watson had already assisted CD in the procurement of orchids (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 8, letter to A. G. More, 24 June 1860). Goodyera was of special interest to CD for his study of the comparative anatomy of the rostellum in British orchid species (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to George Gordon, 11 September [1860]; see also Orchids, pp. 112–16).
For CD’s application to Gordon for specimens, see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to George Gordon, 11 September [1860].
Gordon sent the requested specimens of Goodyera repens to CD (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to George Gordon, 17 September [1860]). CD acknowledged Gordon for supplying specimens of ‘this rare Highland Orchid’ in Orchids, p. 112 n.
For Watson’s views on forces that counterbalance the proliferation of species through natural selection, see, for example, Correspondence vol. 8, letters from H. C. Watson, [3? January 1860] and 10 May 1860.


HCW thanks GG for responding so promptly to CD’s application for assistance.

Wonders whether natural selection can operate to the extent CD contends.

Letter details

Letter no.
Hewett Cottrell Watson
George Gordon
Sent from
Thames Ditton, Surrey
Source of text
Elgin Museum (Gordon Archive 60.15)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2921F,” accessed on 23 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)