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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Lawson Tait   15 July [1875]1

7, Great Charles St. | Birmingham.

July 15

My Dear Sir,

I have finished the book and gone over some of the ground new to me. The evidence of absorption is overwhelming & your discovery of “aggregation” alone is enough to immortalise you.2 I have to review the book for the Spectator so that there you will see my opinion more at length.3 I have also announced “Insectivorous Plants” as the subject of my next annual lecture at the Sunday Society St George’s Hall, Langham Place.4

There are one or two points where I do not think you are yet complete, but I will not weary you with them now.

I am working at Droserin, but am sadly hampered for want of material. We cannot get the D. binata anywhere

I shall find the same thing no doubt in the secretions of the Nepenthes to which I have abundant access5

Let me congratulate you on having made as substantial a contribution to biology as any you have yet achieved, and a confirmation of “Darwinism” of the most important character.

With best regards | Yours faithfully, | Lawson Tait

CD annotations

3.1 We cannot … anywhere 3.2] cross in margin blue crayon


The year is established by the reference to Insectivorous plants, which was published on 2 July 1875 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
CD discussed the aggregation of fluid in the tentacles of plants in Insectivorous plants, pp. 38–65.
Tait’s review appeared in the Spectator, 14 August 1875, p. 1036. A copy is in CD’s bound volume of reviews (DAR 226.2).
The Sunday Lecture Society sponsored talks on science, literature, and the arts at St George’s Hall in Langham Palace, Regent Street, London. CD was listed as a supporter of the society, and had donated £1. See Barton 2014, pp. 199–206.
Tait was trying to isolate substances in the digestive fluid of insectivorous plants. In Nature, 29 July 1875, p. 252, he reported having separated a substance ‘closely resembling pepsine’ from the secretions of Drosera dichotoma (Drosera binata, the forked-leaf sundew) and Nepenthes (the tropical pitcher-plant). He gave the name ‘droserin’ to the substance in later reports of his experiments (Tait 1879; Tait 1879–80; Nature, 30 September 1880, p. 521).


Barton, Ruth. 2014. Sunday lecture societies: naturalistic scientists, Unitarians, and secularists unite against Sabbatarian legislation. In Victorian scientific naturalism: community, identity, continuity, edited by Gowan Dawson and Bernard Lightman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Tait, Lawson. 1879–80. Notes on the structures of pitcher plants. Midland Naturalist 2 (1879): 265–8, 295–7; 3 (1880): 5–8, 58–62.

Tait, Lawson. 1879. Researches on the digestive principles of plants. [Read 22 May 1879.] Proceedings of the Birmingham Philosophical Society 1 (1876–9) pt 2: 125–39.


Has read Insectivorous plants and is to review it for the Spectator.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Lawson (Lawson) Tait
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 14
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10066,” accessed on 1 April 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23