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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Lawson Tait   15 August [1875]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Aug. 15th

My dear Sir

I must write one line to thank you cordially for your kind Review in the Spectator, which is most honourable to me & more than I deserve. You have, also, pleased me very much by your notice of my son Francis.—2 You will think me extra sceptical, but I cannot understand how the virgin pitchers of Nepenthes can have contained your droserine, seeing that the fluid was acid, at least in one case, & yet did not digest.3

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I have been working so hard at new Edits, of old Books that I have had no time to think of anything else,, & have done too much, & must leave home for a little rest.—4


The year is established by the reference to Tait’s review of Insectivorous plants (see n. 2, below).
In his unsigned review of Insectivorous plants in the Spectator, 14 August 1875, Tait credited Francis Darwin, who promised to be a ‘worthy son of a noble father’, with making valuable contributions to the work (ibid., p.1037). See also letter from Lawson Tait, 15 July [1875] and n. 3.
In his paper in Nature, 29 July 1875, pp. 251–2, Tait proposed the name ‘droserine’ (‘droserin’ elsewhere) for a digestive substance he believed he had isolated from the secretions of insectivorous plants, and reported on experiments carried out at CD’s suggestion on unopened tropical pitcher-plants (Nepenthes). See also letter from Lawson Tait, 15 July [1875] and n. 5, and letter to Lawson Tait, 20 July [1875].
CD had been working on the second editions of both Variation and Climbing plants; he stayed at the home of William Erasmus Darwin in Southampton from 28 August to 11 September 1875 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Climbing plants: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green; Williams & Norgate. 1865.

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

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


Thanks him for his kind review of Insectivorous plants in the Spectator. Disputes Tait’s report of a Nepenthes that trapped a fly but did not digest it.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10177F,” accessed on 17 May 2021,

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