From Edward Cresy 19 May 1862
Metropolitan Board of Works | Spring Gardens
19 May ’62
My dear Sir,
Pray accept my very best thanks for your wonderful book on the fertilization of Orchids—1 I dont pretend to have mastered it yet for it wants very careful reading but what I have read has given me the greatest pleasure— I knew how singular & striking was the mechanism of many foreign orchids, but had no idea of the extent and variation of contrivance in the British— I am truly glad you have yourself explained so strong a class of cases for the advocates of separate creation— No one can accuse you of suppressing anything in their favor—& I dare say they will profit by some of your labors— I confess I am altogether puzzled by the Bee Ophrys— Why so much pains should be taken with all the others to ensure intercrossing and this one go on for ever self fertilising is a regular teazer—2 Is there any solution to be found in multiplication by the roots— I believe some orchids do and some do not— I think your anticipation by analogy of a Madagascar moth with a probiscis ten inches long equals Adam’s & Leverrier— What a triumph it will be to find him—3
I am very grateful for your few remarks on the secretion of nectar I own to having felt it to be a difficulty in the path and it never occurred to me ‘as matter excreted to free the system from superfluous or injurious substances’ seized upon by natural selection as a means for working out an end—4 I had never noticed the glands secreting nectar in the laurel leaves— I confess myself greatly astonished at the prolificness of the orchids you cite— I thought they must be shy bearers from their comparative scarceness— What can keep them down?— You do not mention the source of the very peculiar smell of most of them. I suppose it to be important in attracting insects—or has it not been worked up by natural selection— the common orchis I have noticed to be almost scentless by day & remarkably fetid at night. it makes a room stink as if no end of cats had passed the night in it—
The chapter on homologies is to me and will be to many others who have not access to the great monographs peculiarly instructive—5 From having your attention so constantly directed to the subject & therefore at your finger’s ends you can hardly conceive the extreme value of such a diagram as fig 32—6 Half the story in fact is incomprehensible to our weak minds without it— with it we feel quite cleared up— I never thanked you for your interesting brochure on dimorphism in Primula—7 The beauty of natural selection is the immense variety of new thoughts it suggests—
Yours very truly & very gratefully | E Cresy
I hope your daughter continues to gain health & strength8 & that Mrs Darwin is well Pray give my very kind remembrances—
C Darwin Esq.
Comments on presentation copy of Orchids: bee Ophrys self-fertilisation; origin of nectar; odour of orchids. Book gives strong cases for special creationists.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3563,” accessed on 12 February 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3563