To Daniel Oliver 26 February 1
Down Bromley Kent
I am much obliged for your curious paper on the Hamamelideæ.2 The points which you indicate of the complex affinities, wide distribution, small number of species seem all clearly to point to a ruined & bankrupt Family.3 And how curious the structure of the wood!4 But you well indicate how difficult it is in such cases, especially when one does not know the use or function of a structure, to tell whether any point is due to inheritance or to subsequent acquirement, in which case the point would only be one of analogous resemblance. It has pleased me extremely to see you allude to such questions in so profound a paper; it is the best of all answers to those who pooh-pooh the whole subject.
I long to be at Drosera again,5 but Heaven knows whether my health will last out, & whether I shall not have to retreat for two months to Malvern for Hydropathy.
But, if in your power, I shd. be extremely much obliged if you could procure for me a few plants of Dionæa & keep them at Kew for me & let me know what they cost that I may repay you for them.6 I mean to attempt only a few comparative experiments with Drosera.—
There is another plant which I want much: would it give any extra trouble to order it at same time; if it would, I am not so silly as to expect you to do it for me. But I have thought it might be ordered & come with Dionæa & so give no more trouble. It is Cypripedium spectabile from N. America.— A neighbour says it seeded with him; from which I infer that probably some insect visited it; so that I am curious to make observations on it, having observed so many other Orchid Genera.
If you can easily help me, I believe you will, & pray believe me | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin
Praise for DO’s paper on Hamamelidaceae ["On Sycopis", Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 23 (1862): 83–9, read 15 Mar 1860]. Everything points to its being a "bankrupt" family.
Hydropathy at Malvern may take him from Drosera. Requests Dionaea and Cypripedium.
- experiment, scientific observation
- higher groupings (‘family’, ‘class’, ‘order’ etc)
- number of species
- positive criticism of correspondent
- specimens / samples
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3072,” accessed on 28 July 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3072