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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Frederick Currey   11 March 1871

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Mar 11 1871


In accordance with the request of the Council I have carefully considered Mr Mansel Weale’s four papers.1

With respect to the one numbered 1791, I am of opinion that so much has been written on the fertilisation of Orchids, that no paper is worth publishing unless it contains much new matter. If the Council concurs in this judgment, it will suffice to print a few extracts relating to the contraction of the elastic caudicle of the pollinium when freed from the anther-case, & on the caudicle of another species being shortened by being permanently folded. I have marked with blue lines the few passages which seem to me worth publishing. The illustrations in this & the 3 following papers are not clear; they are not indispensable & would be expensive to engrave, so that I think they may be all omitted.2

The paper on Disperis (1792) is short & may be printed in extenso, as it describes the remarkable fact of two of the sepals being converted into nectaries, in addition to a nectariferous labellum. Other curious peculiarities are described. These facts are made intelligible, though the general structure of the flower is very difficult to understand; nor did I receive much aid from the illustrations.3

The paper on Disa macrantha (1793) is likewise short, & deserves publication in extenso; as it records a singular difference between allied species in requiring or not requiring the aid of insects for their fertilisation.4

I would suggest that papers 1792 & 1793 should be printed before the abstract of paper 1791.5

The first ten pages of paper 1794 on the Asclepiadæ may be greatly shortened by the omission of irrelevant matter: I have marked with blue lines the passages which deserve to be retained.6 At p. 10 a whole description seems worth giving. Of the remainder, about half may be printed, & the passages have been marked. I am bound to inform the Council that these parts seem worth publishing only for the sake of any one who should hereafter study the remarkable structure of the flowers in the plants of this group, in the manner already done to a large extent by Prof. Hildebrand & Sig Delpino.7 In this case, I do not doubt that the observations recorded on the actions of the insects in the native country of the plants would possess much interest.

I would venture to suggest, as a plan deserving consideration, that the Editor of the Journal shd append a foot-note to the above papers stating that there were illustrations preserved in the archives of the Society which might be consulted by any one who wished to make a special study of the subjects referred to.8

I beg leave to remain | Sir | your obedient servant | Ch. Darwin

P.S. The papers are returned registered by this post—

To the Secretary | Linnean Society


See letter to the Linnean Society, 4 March [1871] and n. 2. CD refers to James Philip Mansel Weale and to Weale 1870a, 1870b, 1870c, and 1870d.
The paper numbered 1791 in the Linnean Society catalogue is Weale 1870a (‘Notes on some species of Habenaria’). The manuscript version of the paper has two watercolour illustrations. The published version is greatly abridged, with no illustrations.
Paper 1792 is Weale 1870b. It is printed in full, but the watercolour illustrations that accompany the manuscript have been omitted.
Paper 1793 is Weale 1870d. It is printed in full, but the watercolour illustrations that accompany the manuscript have been omitted.
In the Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany), the papers appear in the order CD suggested.
Paper 1794 is Weale 1870c. The manuscript version of the paper is thirty-three pages long and has watercolour diagrams. The published version is ten pages long, with no illustrations.
CD refers to Friedrich Hildebrand and Federico Delpino. See Hildebrand 1866 and Delpino 1865.
The footnote CD suggested was appended to Weale 1870a, p. 42. Weale sent fifty-six sheets of watercolour drawings; they are in the archive of the Linnean Society, together with a packet of eleven dried plant specimens (Linnean Society of London, Weale Misc, drawer 39).


Gives his opinion on four papers by J. P. M. Weale.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Linnean Society
Sent from
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (Report on J. P. Weale Society paper SP1250)
Physical description
7pp & Adraft 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7568,” accessed on 26 April 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19