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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Gaston de Saporta   24 September 1868

Down. Bromley. Kent. S.E.

Sep: 24 1868.

Dear Sir.

Owing to your letter of Sep: 6 having been addressed to London and not at once fowarded here, I received it only 2 or 3 days ago, otherwise I should not have allowed so long an interval to have elapsed before thanking you most sincerely for the honour which you have done me—1 Your letter abounds with statements & remarks of the highest interest to me. A few years ago it would have been thought quite incredible that the Genus Magnolia should have existed so long ago;2 & how much light the Antiquity of the genus Fagus throws on the distribution of the existing species on which subject, I have often felt much surprise.3 I fully appreciate the importance of your observations on the antiquity of certain varieties— It is also surprising to find that paleontology aids so much in giving us the origin of our fruit trees.—4 I am particularly obliged to you for telling me of the excellent instance of the direct action of pollen in Pistacia—5 As I have formerly read with great interest many of your papers on fossil plants you may believe with what high satisfaction I hear that you are a believer in the gradual evolution of Species—6 I had supposed that my book on the origin of species, had made very little impression in France and therefore it delights me to hear a different statement from you. All the great authorities of the Institute seem firmly resolved to believe in the immutability of species,7 and this has always astonished me in the country which has given birth to Buffon, Lamarck & Geoffroy St Hilaire.8 Almost the one exception, as far as I know is Mr. Gaudry9—& I think he will be soon one of the Chief Leaders in Zoological Paleontology in Europe & now I am delighted to hear that in the sister department of Botany you take nearly the same view.

With cordial thanks & the most sincere respect | I beg leave to remain dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin


For Saporta’s work on Miocene and modern beech (Fagus) species, see the letter from Gaston de Saporta, 6 September 1868 and n. 8.
CD refers to the Institut de France. For more on the reception of CD’s theory in France, see Stebbins 1988 and J. Harvey 1997.
CD refers to Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, and Jean Baptiste de Lamarck; see also letter to Albert Gaudry, 21 January [1868].
CD had been corresponding with the palaeontologist Albert Gaudry since 1866 (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to Albert Gaudry, 17 September [1866]).


Discusses GdeS’s studies on fossil plants;

response to Origin in France.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Louis Charles Joseph Gaston (Gaston) Saporta (comte de)
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 419
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6390,” accessed on 22 October 2017,

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