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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Lawson Tait   24 April 1876

Down, Beckenham Kent

April 24 /76

My dear Sir

I am sorry to have to inform you that the Royal Socy has returned your paper on Nepenthes &c to me & the Secy has written to me that the Soc declines to have it read.1 I send it to you by this post registered as a book parcel. I have enquired the reason why it has not been read, & am informed that the referee on the morphological part of your paper reports that all the essential points have been fully described & figured by Kortahl & Griffith long ago & by some Germans. The Council declines to hear a paper read which gives as new what has already been published, although no doubt without your knowledge. The referee likewise objects in very strong terms to new names being given to well known structures.2 I am likewise informed that the Referee on the physiological parts of your paper, reports unfavourably; but I have not heard the exact nature of his objections.3 Nor do I know positively that I shall hear. Therefore I have thought that I ought not to delay any longer to return your paper.

I am sorry to be compelled to send so unpleasant a communication, & remain | My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Ch Darwin

Lawson Tait Esq


CD had submitted Tait’s paper on Nepenthes (the tropical pitcher-plant) to the Royal Society of London in 1875 (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 December [1875]). For the response from the secretary of the society, George Gabriel Stokes, see the letter from G. G. Stokes, 14 April 1876.
No communication from the referee of the morphological part of Tait’s paper has been found. The references are to Pieter Willem Korthals, Korthals 1839–44, William Griffith, and Griffith and McClelland 1847–54, 1: 232–3, and 4: 348–53. For Joseph Dalton Hooker’s comments on the new names that Tait gave to well-known structures, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 28 January 1876 and n. 2.
Michael Foster was the physiological referee; see letter from J. D. Hooker, [18 April 1876] and n. 3.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Korthals, Pieter Willem. 1839–44. Over het geslacht Nepenthes. In Verhandelingen over de natuurlijke geschiedenis der Nederlandsche overzeesche bezittingen, door de Leden der Natuurkundige Commissie in Indië en andere Schrijvers, edited by Coenraad Jacob Temminck. Leiden: S. and J. Luchtmans and C. C. van der Hoek.


The Royal Society have returned RLT’s Nepenthes paper and will not have it read because of unfavourable reports from referees.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Lawson (Lawson) Tait
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 202: 84
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10470,” accessed on 18 April 2021,

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