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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Cook Gould   10 October 1864


Oct 10/64


I enclose an extract respecting Beans from the Systema Horticulturea—or the Art of Gardening by I Woolridge Gent— printed for Thos Dring at the Harrow over against the Templegate in Fleet street 1688 1   I shall be pleased to lend you the work if it will be of any service—2

Yrs obedtly | Jno Gould


On Kidney Beans

Kidney Beans were as ancient a food as the other (The Broad Beans) and in very great esteem with the old Italians; yet within the Memory of man were a great rarity here in England although now a known and common delicate Food

They delight in a warm, light, and fertile ground, which being well stirred, and about May-day or very little sooner, planted with the Kidney Beans, at about a foot apart, and two fingers deep, will yield you an extraordinary Crop

You may either set tall sticks near for them to turne about or let them lie on the ground, but if you are straitened in room, those on sticks will yield you the greatest crop

Of these there are four sorts, 1. The Scarlet Runner Bean, which yieldeth a rough husk, and is not the best to eat in the shell as Kidney Beans usually are eaten, but is the best to be eaten in the winter when dry and boiled. 2. The Painted or Steaked Bean, which is the hardiest, although the meanest of all, and is known, the dry Bean being all over streaked with a dark Color. 3. The large White Bean, which yields a fair and delicate Pod. 4 The small White Bean which except in size is like the latter, but esteemed the sweeter.

There is another sort much like the last, that is natural to the Island, Bona Vista, and thence taken and propagated in the Summer Islands,4 from whence certain persons have them dry and esteem them as delicate Meat; they will flourish here well in branch, but our Summers are not long enough to bring them to maturity, Quære, if raised on a hot bed

CD note:

May day is May 1st which by old style wd have been April 20th.

Now Brooks5 here in high land does not sow till First week in May!!

difference in soil, & season & fertility importation of new vars. renders my problem insoluble


The reference is to Worlidge 1688. The third part of John Worlidge’s horticultural treatise gave directions for managing the kitchen garden and growing culinary plants; beans and peas are discussed on pages 170–5 and 253.
This letter is in answer to CD’s letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 8 October 1864].
The extract is from Worlidge 1688, pp. 171–2.
A gazetteer of 1781 identifies two islands called Bona Vista (Seally 1781): one of the North Mariana Islands in the Pacific, now called Tinian, and one of the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic, 200 miles west of the African coast, now known as Ilha da Boavista. The ‘Summer Islands’ are probably those now known as the Bermuda islands.
William Brooks was an outdoor servant at Down House (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 April [1864] and n. 19). A photograph of Brooks and Henry Lettington, taken in 1859, is reproduced in this volume opposite p. 121.


Encloses an extract concerning beans from the Systema Horticultureæ of 1688 by J. Worlidge. Will be pleased to lend the volume if needed.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Cook Gould
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 271.2: 4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4631A,” accessed on 21 April 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12