skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Torbitt   22 April 1876


22 April 1876

Charles Darwin Esqr. | Down Beckenham Kent.

My dear Sir,

I am sorry, exceedingly sorry, that your health is not re-established— I had hoped that it was.

Perhaps I am an enthusiast to fanaticism, on a given subject, perhaps I only look at facts with a fearless eye.1

I believe nothing excepting only that there is something. But I suspect that you have made a distinct step in advance, as regards mans knowledge of that which is.

As regards the advertisement, my mind misgave me, and I telegraphed Robertson tho not to order it, even if you sent it, lest you might not wish for it.2

One of the last things I would wish to do would be anything disagreeable to you, but unfortunately I sent the paper and your letter of 4th. April not only to the members of the Legislature but to the Editors of the papers and to the Landlords of Ulster.3 But I really think and anxiously hope you will not regret it. It has done good. (without it what impression could I have expected to make?)   I am being thanked on all hands for what I have done, as see for instance, the enclosed note from the Duke of Bedford.4

I thought I had liberty to publish, and did not discriminate, and your name shall never again be used by me except “privately to persuade persons to raise seedlings”.5

—For your instructions as to crossing, my best thanks are a very poor return indeed.6

I am perfectly well aware that your writing to me at all is an honor, and that your writing to me frankly is a high honor.

As to the world I am not very solicitous as to what their opinion of me may be, neither shall I lose a nights sleep over this matter whether I succeed or not. It is only “putting in the time” till the end comes.

Please do not return the specimens.7 Please do not take the trouble to reply. If hereafter I have anything to say worth saying I shall send it first to you.

With very best wishes for your speedy convalescence and with profound respect | I am My dear Sir | faithfully yours | James Torbitt


In his letter to Torbitt of 21 April 1876, CD said he was too unwell to perform potato-crossing experiments for Torbitt. CD was also worried that, if Torbitt published CD’s letters in advertisements before his programme to eradicate potato disease was a success, he would be perceived as a fanatic and this would harm the cause in the future.
See letter to James Torbitt, 21 April 1876 and n. 2. Robertson, Brooman and Co., patent agents with premises at 166 Fleet Street, London, were evidently handling Torbitt’s business in England (see Torbitt’s advertisement in The Times, 22 February 1876, p. 1, and Post Office London directory 1876).
Torbitt refers to his Treatise on the cultivation of the potato (Torbitt 1876), and the letter to James Torbitt, 4 April 1876, which CD gave his permission to publish (see telegram to James Torbitt, 6 April 1876). The title page of Torbitt 1876 states that Torbitt sent it to members of the House of Lords, House of Commons, and the principal landlords of Ulster.
Hastings Russell was the ninth duke of Bedford; the note has not been found.


Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Torbitt, James. 1876. Cras credemus. A treatise on the cultivation of the potato from the seed, having for proposed results the extinction of the disease, and a yield of thirty, forty or more tons of tubers per statute acre. (Sent, accompanied by a packet of seed, to each member of the House of Lords; each member of the House of Commons; and the principal landlords of Ulster.) Belfast: printed by Alexander Mayne.


Thanks for CD’s assistance and his advice on crossing.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Torbitt
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 135
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10466,” accessed on 1 October 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24