To Fritz Müller 28 November 1868
Down Bromley | Kent
Nov 28 | 1868
My dear Sir
You end yr letter of Sep. 9 by saying that it is a very dull one; indeed you make a very great mistake, for it abounds with interesting facts & thoughts.1 Your account of the tameness of the birds which apparently have wandered from the interior, is very curious.
But I must begin on another subject: there has been a great & very vexatious, but unavoidable delay in the publication of your book. Prof. Huxley agrees with me that Mr Dallas is by far the best translator, but he is much overworked & had not quite finished the translation about a fortnight ago.2 He has charge of the Museum at York & is now trying to get the situation of Assistant Sec. at the Geolog. Soc; & all the canvassing &c, & his removal, if he gets the place, will I fear cause more than a month’s delay in the completion of the translation; & this I very much regret.3
I am particularly glad to hear that you intend to repeat my experiments on illegitimate offspring, for no one’s observations can be trusted until repeated.4 You will find the work very troublesome, owing to the death of plants & accidents of all kinds. Some dimorphic plants will probably prove too sterile for you to raise offspring; & others too fertile for much sterility to be expected in their offspring. Primula is bad on account of the difficulty of deciding which seeds may be considered as good. I have earnestly wished that some one would repeat these experiments, but I feared that years wd elapse before any one wd take the trouble. I received yr paper on Bignonia in Bot. Zeit. & it interested me much.5 I am convinced that if you can prove that a plant growing in a distant place under different conditions is more effective in fertilization than one growing close by, you will make a great step in the essence of sexual reproduction.6
Prof. Asa Gray & Dr Hooker have been staying here & oddly enough, they knew nothing of yr paper on Martha; tho’ the former was aware of the curious movements of the stamens, but so little understood the structure of the plant that he thought it was probably a dimorphic species. Accordingly I shewed them your drawings & gave them a little lecture & they were perfectly charmed with your account.7 Hildebrand has repeated his exp. on potatoes & so have I, but this summer with no result.8 I am particularly obliged to you for yr observations on the stridulation of the 2 sexes of Lamellicorns: I begin to fear that I am completely in error, owing to that common cause viz mistaking at first individual variability for sexual difference.9
I go on working at sexual selection, & tho’ never idle I am able to do so little work each day that I make very slow progress.
I will sow the seed of the Chinese Cabbage & look out for the very curious montrosity.10 I knew from Azara about the young of the tapir being striped, & about young deer being spotted; I have often reflected on this subject, & know not what to conclude about the loss of the stripes & spots.11
From the Geograph. Distribution of the striped & unstriped species of Equus there seems to be something very mysterious about the loss of stripes; & I cannot persuade myself that the common ass has lost its stripes owing to being rendered more conspicuous from having stripes & thus exposed to danger.
Believe me my dear Sir | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin
Delay in translating Für Darwin.
Comments on plan to repeat CD’s experiments on illegitimate offspring.
FM’s observations on stridulation.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6483,” accessed on 29 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-6483