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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Dorothy Fanny Nevill   27 November [1861]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Nov. 27th


I will not attempt to thank your Ladyship for all your kindness, for it is beyond my power— I am pleased to hear that my Books have at all interested you; but I fear my little Orchid book will be dry.2 This summer when at the sea, I meant merely to write a paper for some scientific journal, but the subject grew on me till my M.S. got rather too long for a paper.3 I am convinced that orchids have a wicked power of witchcraft, for I ought all these months to be working at the dry old bones of poultry, pigeons, and rabbits instead of intensely admiring beautiful orchids.— I mention all this, because, though I can hardly bear to write the words, I must beg your Ladyship not to send any more of your treasures; though perhaps at some future period I may indulge myself with the examination of a few more orchids.— I will not forget your Ladyships most generous offer to give me other flowers, if I require them for observation, & I have no doubt that I shall some time be a beggar again [less than 2 pages missing] of the beauties of Dangstein, which I shall now read with interest.4

If your Ladyship should meet Mr Knox I hope that you will remember me to him: I spent many years ago a very pleasant morning with him & Sir Philip Egerton at the Zoological Gardens.—5

I beg leave to remain | with cordial thanks | your Ladyships | sincerely obliged | Charles Darwin

Since writing I have reason to hope that I shall receive a flower of Mormodes from Mr Rucker of Wandsworth6


The year is established by the relationship between this letter, the letter to John Lindley, 16 November [1861], and the letter to D. F. Nevill, 19 November [1861] (Correspondence vol. 9). See n. 6, below.
Nevill’s letter to CD has not been found, but was evidently a reply to his letter of 19 November [1861], in which CD had promised to send Nevill a copy of Orchids when it was published.
CD was at Torquay from 1 July to 27 August 1861 (Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix II). CD decided in September 1861 that the subject of orchids would be worth publishing as a short book (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to John Murray, 21 September [1861]).
Nevill had invited CD to see the orchid collection in her garden at Dangstein, near Midhurst, Sussex, but CD had declined on account of his health (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to D. F. Nevill, 19 November [1861]). CD probably refers to an article, ‘The gardens and conservatories at Dangstein’, that appeared in two parts in the 26 November and 3 December 1861 issues of the Journal of Horticulture (n.s. 2: 168–9, 183–5).
CD refers to Arthur Edward Knox and Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton.
In his letter to John Lindley of 16 November [1861] (Correspondence vol. 9), CD mentioned that he had been promised orchids (Catasetum and Dendrobium) by Sigismund Rucker, who lived in West Hill, Wandsworth. In Orchids, p. 249 n., CD thanked Rucker for lending him a plant of Mormodes ignea. Rucker evidently offered to send the plant after CD had made a second request for flowers of Mormodes from Nevill (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to D. F. Nevill, 19 November [1861]).


Thanks Dorothy Nevill for her assistance in supplying him with plants, but he will not require any more. Asks her to remember him to A. E. Knox.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Dorothy Fanny Nevill
Source of text
Max Rambod (dealer)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3414F,” accessed on 24 May 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18 (Supplement)