To T. H. Farrer 6 May 1
Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.
My dear Mr Farrer
Thanks for your note. I doubted about degradation, & had not slightest objection to gradation, because I did not like the idea, & knew nothing about the facts.
I disliked & still dislike the idea because I can see no reason for it. V. cornuta (I believe) & certainly V. canina & odorata produce perfect flowers adapted for a cross, & small closed flowers to insure a stock of seed through self-fertilisation. V. tricolor which it seems stands near one end of the series does not produce the small closed flowers, & is only very moderately fertile when the visits of insects are prevented.2 Hence I can see no meaning in degradation, but every step in progress wd be advantageous.
Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin
—But to invert a saying of Agassiz “Nature often lies” & does things quite contrary to theory.—3
Dislikes the use of the term "degradation" as applied to the closed flowers of Viola species. Species with such self-fertilising flowers also have flowers adapted for crossing. The development of closed flowers adapted to ensure a sufficient stock of seed is progressive.