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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. J. Romanes   29 September 1875

Dunskaith, Nigg, Ross-shire, N.B.,

Sept. 29, 1875.

My dear Mr. Darwin,—

Many thanks for your kind letter.1 I am an M.A. and a fellow of the Philosophical Society of Cambridge, but otherwise I am nothing, nor have I any publication worth alluding to. I suppose, however, this will not matter if I am proposed by yourself, Dr. Hooker, and Mr. Dyer.2 I think there would be no harm in saying ‘attached to Physiology and Zoology.’ I may read a paper before the Linnean next November on some new species of Medusæ, but I think it is better not to allude to any contributions in advance.3

Your letter about Pangenesis made me long for success more even than does the biological importance of the problem. Yesterday I dug up all my potatoes.4 Some of the produce looked suspicious, but more than this I should not dare to say. By this post I send you a box containing some of the best specimens, thinking you may like to see them. The lots marked A and B are sent for comparison with the others, being the kinds I grafted together. If you think it worth while to have the eyes of any of the other lots planted, you might either do so yourself or send them back to me. Lot C is the queerest, and to my perhaps too partial eye looks very like a mixture. In the case of this graft the seed potato was rotten when dug up yesterday, and this may account for the small size of the tubers sent.

I did try dahlias and peonies, but in the former the ‘finger and toe’ shape of the tubers, with the eyes situated in the worst parts for cutting out clearly, prevented me from getting adhesion in any one case. With the peonies I was too late in beginning. It was also too late in the year when I began Pangenesis to try the spring flowers, but I hope to do so extensively this winter. Next year I shall try grafting beets and mangolds by cutting the young white root into a square shape and placing four red roots all round. In this way the white one will have a maximum surface exposed to the influence of the red ones. I shall also try grafting the crown of the red in the root of the white variety, and vice versâ. I have already done this very successfully with carrots—making a little hole in the top of the root, and fitting in the crown like a cork in a bottle.

I shall look forward with great interest to the appearance of the new edition of the ‘Variation.’ I only wish I had begun Pangenesis a year earlier, when perhaps by this time the graft-hybrid question might have been settled. Perhaps, however, it is as well to have this question once more presented in its à priori form, for if it can soon afterwards be proved that a graft hybrid is possible, the theoretical importance of the fact may be more generally appreciated.

A day or two ago I saw on a farm near this a beautiful specimen of striping on a horse. The animal is a dark dun cob, with a very divided shoulder stripe coming off from the spinal one on either side. Each shoulder stripe then divides into three prongs, and each prong ends in a sharp point. All the legs are black as far as the knees (carpi and tarsi), and above the black part for a considerable distance all four legs are deeply marked with numerous stripes. I can get no history of parentage. If you would like a drawing I can send one, but perhaps you have already as many cases as you want in the ‘Variation.’5

Very sincerely and most respectfully yours, | Geo. J. Romanes.


See letter to G. J. Romanes, 24 September [1875]. CD had offered to propose Romanes for membership of the Linnean Society.
Joseph Dalton Hooker and William Turner Thiselton-Dyer.
Romanes’s paper on medusae (G. J. Romanes 1876–7) was read at the Linnean Society on 6 April 1876 and 18 January 1877.
On CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis, see Variation 2: 357–404. In his letter of 24 September [1874], CD had mentioned that he was rewriting the section on pangenesis for the second edition of Variation. Romanes was attempting to test the hypothesis by grafting potatoes and other plants.
CD discussed stripes in horses in Variation 1: 55–65 and 2: 41; he made additions in the second edition.


Romanes, George John. 1876–7. An account of some new species, varieties, and monstrous forms of medusæ. [Read 6 April 1876 and 18 January 1877.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Zoology) 12 (1876): 524–31; 13 (1878): 190–4.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Sends specimens of grafted potatoes. Describes grafting experiments designed to prove possibility of graft-hybrids, and thus, Pangenesis.

Letter details

Letter no.
George John Romanes
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
E. D. Romanes 1896, pp. 34–7

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10176,” accessed on 15 August 2020,

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