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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Henslow   2 December 1865

10 South Crescent | Bedford Sq; | W.C.

Dec 2/65

My dear Sir,

I have been very remiss in not writing to thank you for your last interesting letter;1 but I have been so much engaged since then that I have not had even time to write: in fact I have been engaged in writing a resumé of your deeply interesting paper on tendrils &c. for the “Popular Science Review”, & had only a short time to do it in.—2 It has so greatly interested me that I quite long to see the plants themselves; & therefore I am going to make the request for you to allow me to run down to Bromley & give myself the pleasure of calling on you: I am afraid I must however wait until January,3 as being engaged in my school (of wh. I beg to enclose a Prospectus)4 I cannot get away till then: but if you are at home at that period I would I assure you, esteem it a great favour to be allowed to examine the plants in situ.

Very many thanks for your offer of Sprengel’s work:5 I will see if it is in the Linnæan Library or British Museum   if not perhaps I may be allowed to borrow yours: but I do not like to put you to any inconvenience

I read your note on Medicago lupulina in conjunction with mine on M. sativa &c at the Linnæan (last meeting)6   It seemed to create interest

I should feel very much obliged if you will allow me to keep the printed paper on the Kidney beans 7 & to accept your offer as it will be very useful to me in Botanical teaching; for I am glad to get any illustrations pictures &c. or printed matter, for my “Instructional Herbarium”; originated by my father & now proving invaluable to me: i.e. a Herbarium with the addition of drawings of dissections of some 1 or more plant of every order, with morphological monstrosities Diagrams &c … interspersed for the purpose of teaching Botany in a School or in private lessons, which I am now doing,—having a class every Saturday Evening; as well as in my own school.—8

Have you ever examined Crocus to see if it requires intercrossing; I have often suspected it, & mean—as far as I can in London—to try a few experiments this spring. The method pursued by bees is admirably adapted for the purpose which only requires proving.9

Hoping you are in better health, | Believe me | Dear Sir, | Yours very Sincerely | Geo. Henslow


CD’s letter to Henslow has not been found.
Henslow’s summary of ‘Climbing plants’ appeared in the January 1866 issue of Popular Science Review, pp. 55–65.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), George Henslow did not visit Down until 2 April 1866.
Henslow was headmaster of the Grammar School, Store Street, London (Alum. Cantab.). The prospectus has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Sprengel 1793. See letter from George Henslow, 6 November 1865 and n. 3.
G. Henslow 1865. See letter from George Henslow, 6 November 1865 and n. 2.
CD had sent Henslow his paper ‘On the agency of bees in the fertilization of papilionaceous flowers, and on the crossing of kidney beans’. See letters from George Henslow, 1 November 1865 and n. 9, and 6 November 1865.
George Henslow’s father, John Stevens Henslow, had actively promoted the use of drawings and diagrams, in conjunction with herbaria, in the teaching of botany (see Russell-Gebbett 1977, pp. 42–66, and Walters and Stow 2001, pp. 62, 240–2). Copies of his teaching materials, developed for school-children at Hitcham, Suffolk, where he was rector, were specially commissioned by the Department of Science and Art and exhibited in the South Kensington Museum. He also wrote a pamphlet on the use of illustrations for elementary instruction in botany (J. S. Henslow 1858). George Henslow had assisted his father in teaching in Hitcham, and was called upon in 1864 by Rugby school to prepare herbaria and diagrams for a new botany course, the syllabus of which was designed by Joseph Dalton Hooker (see Russell-Gebbett 1977, p. 67). On the use of illustrations in botanical education in early Victorian Britain, see A. Secord 2002.
No record that CD experimented with Crocus has been found; however, in a letter to the plant hybridiser William Herbert, 26 June 1839 (Correspondence vol. 2), CD stated his belief in the necessity of occasional intercrossing between individuals, and asked whether insects, ‘by using force with their jaws’, could carry pollen from one Crocus flower to another of the same species. George Henslow had expressed interest in the floral mechanisms that favoured intercrossing in the Leguminosae, noting that Crocus afforded an example of cross-pollination by means of bees (see letter from George Henslow, 1 November 1865 and nn. 6 and 8). No record has been found of the results of experiments by Henslow on Crocus.


Has been writing a review of CD’s "Climbing plants" for Popular Science Review [5 (1866): 55–65].

Letter details

Letter no.
George Henslow
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, South Crescent, 10
Source of text
DAR 166: 152, 152/1
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4944,” accessed on 21 June 2018,

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