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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Adam Fitch   18 November 1862

Vicarage | Thornton Steward | Bedale

Novr. 18th. 1862


I have just met with your queries in the Gardeners’ Chronicle, respecting peas—1I venture therefore to trouble you with a letter in answer.

My late Rector Dr. Davy Master of Caius was a most intimate friend of Mr. Knights, who was in the habit of sending his new productions, if very good, to the Doctors country residence in Norfolk—2 On one occasion I recollect seeing some peas in bloom which came from Mr. Knight, the tall Marrow; and I noticed a large proportion of coloured blossom—in fact the blossom of the common field pea— I noticed this to my Rector, who told me the Peas were a cross by Knight between the common Prussian Blue and the common field pea—3 When Curate of Cottenham & Willingham having resided in the two Parishes for 20 years,4 I had a very favourite pale pea—Greens tall Marrow. It was my great crop & of course was surrounded by different kinds of peas—most being more or less in blossom at the same time— I never saw any change—or anything approximating to a cross—but at end of 20 years the seed appeared to be as true as at commencement.5 I tried the same kind here but our West Winds which are most violent, compelled me to give it up.6

As a practical gardener I would venture to suggest that the pea producer’s on a large scale, are not sufficiently careful in gathering or in threshing & thus too frequently you find a mixture. This was the case this last season with Hairs Dwrf Marrow a most desirable variety

CD annotations

2.9 Greens tall Marrow.] underl brown crayon
2.11 but … commencement. 2.12] scored brown crayon
Top of letter: ‘Revd Adam Fitch.’ ink; ‘Ch. 3.’7 brown crayon


See letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 8 November 1862].
Fitch refers to the horticulturalist Thomas Andrew Knight, and to the physician Martin Davy, master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, from 1803 to 1839 (DNB). Davy was rector of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, between 1827 and 1839, during part of which time Fitch served as his curate (Alum. Cantab.); Davy’s country residence was Heacham Lodge, Norfolk (DNB).
CD reported this information in Variation 1: 326.
Fitch was curate of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire from 1832, and curate of the neighbouring parish of Willingham from 1841 to 1849.
CD reported this account in Variation 1: 329–30.
From 1849, Fitch was vicar of Thornton Steward, Yorkshire (Alum. Cantab.).
This is a reference to CD’s ‘big book’ on species, originally drafted between 1856 and 1858; the third chapter was entitled, ‘On the possibility of all organisms crossing, & on susceptibility of the reproductive system to external agencies’ (see Natural selection, pp. 33–91). Having published Origin as an abstract of his ‘big book’, CD planned to revise the longer manuscript for publication (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to John Murray, 22 December [1859]). In the event, only the first part of the projected work was published, broadly based on the first two chapters of the original manuscript (Variation). However, in Cross and self fertilisation CD dealt with many of the topics originally covered in the third chapter of his ‘big book’, and several of the other notes and letters in CD’s portfolios of materials used in preparing the work (DAR 76–9) are annotated ‘Ch. 3’. In Cross and self fertilisation, p. 161, CD referred the reader to the evidence given in Variation (including Fitch’s) concerning the true breeding exhibited by varieties of common pea grown in close proximity over many generations.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


In reply to CD’s letter, "Peas" in Gardeners’ Chronicle [8 Nov 1862; Collected papers 2: 70] sends information on the duration of some of A. Knight’s crossed varieties.

Letter details

Letter no.
Adam Fitch
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 77: 166–7
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3813,” accessed on 20 January 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10