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Darwin Correspondence Project

To [Robertson Munro?]1   3 February [1865 or 1866?]2

Feb 3rd

Dear Sir

I am much obliged for yr letter3 & am particularly glad to hear that you are going to experimentise on Passifloras. & perhaps publish the results. If published I shd very much wish for a copy.—4 I have b[een] sincerely grieved to read your letter on the inaccuracy of Mr John Scott; & I fear that you suspect him of recording experiments never made.5 This would be a detestable crime   I cannot think so ill of any human being as to believe in this without the fullest proof— May you not have been misled by the crosses having been made early or late in the day & on successive days.— I know I have sometimes made a few crosses day after day & when I added them up I have been surprised to find how high the total number amounted to. I can feel sure, however, from the tenor of your letter, that you will have no wish to be hard on a fellow labourer & will make your trial in a perfectly fair spirit for as you fairly say, Truth must come before every consideration.— It never occurred to me in the least to doubt Mr Scotts experiments, for I had collected information from several & quite independent sources showing that Passiflora is sometimes strangely infertile with its own pollen whilst fertile with that of other species.—6

With very best thanks for your letter | I am Dear Sir | Yours truly | C. Darwin


The recipient of the letter of which this is a draft may have been the Edinburgh nurseryman and florist, Robertson Munro (see nn. 4 and 5, below).
The date range is conjectured on the basis of the allusion to John Scott’s paper on sterility in Passiflora (Scott 1864c; see also n. 6, below), and CD’s statement in Variation 2: 138 that he had been in communication with Munro in 1866 (see n. 4, below).
The letter to which this is a draft reply has not been found.
Munro published an account of sterility in Passiflora in 1868. There is a lightly annotated presentation copy of Munro 1868 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL (G471). CD discussed Munro’s work on Passiflora in Variation, stating that in 1866 he received some ‘interesting details’ about Passiflora from Munro (see Variation 2: 138). Munro conducted part of his research on Passiflora at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, ‘during several years’ (Munro 1868, p. 400); and, by 1864, having pollinated and fertilised the self-sterile Passiflora alata in the garden with pollen from a plant at Keith Hall, Aberdeenshire, he was in a position to raise seedling plants from the union (Munro 1868, p. 300).
Munro may have been familiar with John Scott and his work because Munro conducted some of his research at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, where Scott was employed and carried out his experiments. In 1862, CD had encouraged Scott to test for self-sterility in Passiflora; CD was interested in evidence that some species were more easily fertilised by pollen of other species than by their own (see Origin, pp. 250–1, and Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Scott, 11 December [1862], and Appendix VI). On Scott’s experiments and his discussions with CD about Passiflora in 1863 and 1864, see Correspondence vols. 11 and 12. Scott’s paper on sterility in Passiflora (Scott 1864c) appeared in the issue of the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society for 12 December 1864 (General index to the Journal of the Linnean Society, p. vi).
CD discussed the self-sterility of Passiflora in Variation 2: 137–8, and referred to the work of Scott and Munro. CD also cited Mowbray 1822, Lecoq 1845, and Gärtner 1849, along with three other unnamed sources. See also Correspondence vol. 11, enclosure to letter to John Scott, 6 March 1863.


Is glad MTM is going to experiment on Passiflora.

Is grieved to hear that John Scott has been inaccurate but cannot think he recorded, in his paper, experiments that he never made [see 4485].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robertson Munro
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 96: 16
Physical description
AdraftS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4763,” accessed on 21 July 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13