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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Darwin   [1 May 1876]1


Dear Father

It is fine news about Frankland. I will get the earth this afternoon   I expect the unburnt will be the best after all, confound all that brick making.2

I have nearly done the Food bodies paper as far as Acacia goes.3 Amy has made a duplicate dummy printing machine & we have races on them (in which I win). I find one learns very quick where to dab down ones fingers   I am pining for the real machine.4 Hen was very well yesterday.5

I hope you go on keeping well, & mother too | Yrs affec | FD

Amy sends her love

Amy says it is very unfair my saying I win the races, because I have practiced most


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Francis Darwin, [30 April 1876].
Edward Frankland had offered to analyse two types of soil that CD and Francis Darwin were using in experiments on cross- and self-fertilisation; they wanted to compare the height and vigour of several generations of both cross- and self-fertilised plants and needed to eliminate the nutrient content of the soil as a cause of variation. The first sample was soil that had been burnt, treated with sulphuric acid, and then washed; the second was clayey soil dug up from the Sandwalk at Down House. See letter to J. H. Gilbert, 16 February 1876, and letter to Francis Darwin, [30 April 1876]. In order to rid the soil of most nutrients, CD had been advised to roast sifted clayey soil until all coaly matter disappeared and the resulting porous and friable matter was a brick-red colour (see letter from J. H. Gilbert, 9 March 1876).
Francis’s paper ‘On the glandular bodies on Acacia sphærocephala and Cecropia peltata serving as food for ants’ (F. Darwin 1876d) was read at the Linnean Society on 1 June 1876. Acacia sphaerocephala is a synonym of Vachellia sphaerocephala (bee wattle or bull’s-horn thorn); Cecropia peltata is the embauba or trumpet tree.
CD paid £21 for a typewriter on 2 May 1876 (CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS)). Amy Darwin, Francis’s wife, had presumably made mock keyboards on which to learn the layout of the letters.
Francis probably saw Henrietta Emma Litchfield when he was in London to purchase the typewriter (letter from Horace Darwin to G. H. Darwin, 1 May 1876 (DAR 258: 860)).


Good news about Frankland. Expecting burnt earth. Almost finished the Foodbodies Paper on Acacia. He and Amy are learning to use the new printing machine.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 274.1: 24

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10488F,” accessed on 20 April 2024,

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