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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Farrer   10 September 1868

Eashing Park | Godalming | Surrey.

10 Sept 1868

My dear Mr Darwin

I dont know that I have any right to bother you with the inclosed, except your own good nature and the fact that my own amusement in writing it is due to your books and papers.— It is all very possibly not true, for I have neither knowledge nor experience in observation: and if true, no doubt, not new.: but it has interested me and I venture to send it to you.1

Before I read all that you have said it puzzled me to see how constantly the stigmas in flowers turn their backs on their own anthers— And I do not think that any of the elementary botany books point out that the females are looking for marriages out of their own family—or that, like sound Free Traders, they are looking for imports.2

I am in despair about seeing things— I read about seeing pollen tubes penetrating the stigma with a common lens— And it is all I can do with a (simple) microscope to find out that there are such things as pollen tubes at all. It is the old story of eyes & no eyes.

I trust you are stronger for your stay at Freshwater and able to work.3

Believe me | Very truly yours | T H Farrer

Charles Darwin Esq FRS

CD annotations4

Top of letter: ‘Did you see Hive-bee biting hole?’ pencil


The enclosure has not been found, but Farrer evidently enclosed a manuscript on the ‘fertilizing-apparatus’ of the scarlet runner bean which was published, together with a second manuscript on a similar mechanism in blue lobelia, as Farrer 1868 (see letter to T. H. Farrer, 15 September [1868], and letter from T. H. Farrer, 20 September 1868; see also Farrer 1868, p. 255). Farrer described how the structure of Phaseolus coccineus enabled large bees to transfer pollen from one flower to another (Farrer 1868, pp. 256–60). The article is annotated in CD’s copy of Annals and Magazine of Natural History, which is in his collection of unbound journals in the Darwin Archive–CUL. For Farrer’s most recent extant letter to CD on the pollination of flowers by insects, see the letter from T. H. Farrer, 4 June 1868.
CD discussed how flower structure facilitated crosses with other individuals in ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’, Orchids, ‘Two forms in species of Linum’, and ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’; see also Correspondence vol. 14, letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 11 August 1866]. Farrer was secretary of the Board of Trade, as a strong believer in free trade (ODNB).
CD and his family stayed at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight from 17 July until 20 August 1868 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Sends a paper he has written [on scarlet runner].

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Farrer (1st Baron Farrer)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Eashing Park, Godalming
Source of text
DAR 164: 43
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6361,” accessed on 27 May 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16