skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Darwin   [31 May 1876]1

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

My dear Father

The Bulls Horn is gone & I have written to Dyer to say so.2 A hamper was sent off yesterday to you with wine &c.

I haven’t got into full working order & having to get my drawings done by today scurried me so that I have had no time for teazle.3 I looked on Sunday night & there were blobs at the ends of same glands but they wouldn’t move. I can’t do much till I have done Drosera4   I must try some electrical things under the microscope like Kühne; & make out clearly the effects of osmic.5 I send off drawings today—they are a very poor lot & I hate them all   I hope W is going on well.6 That fine weather on Sunday must have been jolly.7 I hope to goodness I shall be able to come with Pouter & Bessy.8 I will let you know about Teazle

Yours affec | F. D


The date is established by the references to the drawings that Francis was preparing, and to the fine weather on the Sunday before Francis visited Hopedene (see nn. 3, 7 and 8, below).
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer had lent CD a bull-horn acacia (Acacia cornigera) from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 18 February 1876). Francis was returning the plant to Kew.
The drawings were probably for a paper that Francis presented at the Linnean Society on 1 June 1876 on the glandular bodies on Acacia sphaerocephala and Cecropia peltata serving as food for ants (F. Darwin 1876d). He mentioned the bull-horn acacia (see n. 2, above) in ibid., p. 408. Francis had told CD that he had discovered protoplasmic filaments on the common teasel, a plant he thought might be insectivorous (see letter from Francis Darwin, [28 May 1876]).
Francis was investigating the process of aggregation in the tentacles of Drosera rotundifolia (the common or round-leaved sundew) in order to test whether the aggregated matter was protoplasm or not (F. Darwin 1876b).
Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne had demonstrated the irritability of muscle independent of nerves, and also shown that the whole unit reacts even if the stimulation is restricted to one location (Kühne 1859, p. 228). Osmic acid was a reagent used for staining and hardening certain tissues, especially glandular and fatty ones (Redding 1882).
William Erasmus Darwin had been seriously injured after a riding accident on 10 May; he was staying with CD and Emma Darwin at Hopedene (see letter from Francis Darwin, 27 May 1876 and n. 5).
The weather on Sunday 28 May 1876 was pleasant, and CD and Emma Darwin went up Holmbury Hill (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Francis, possibly accompanied by Amy Darwin, came to Hopedene on 3 June 1876 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). He also refers to Elizabeth Darwin. Pouter was a nickname for Leonard Darwin, who was at Down from 8 May 1876 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Kühne, Wilhelm Friedrich. 1859. Die selbständige Reizbarkeit der Muskelfaser. [Read 28 February 1859.] Monatsberichte der Königlichen Preuss. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (1860): 226–8.

Redding, Thomas B. 1882. Osmic acid.— Its uses and advantages in microscopical investigations. Proceedings of the American Society of Microscopists 4: 183–6.


Has sent off Bulls Horn to Kew; has sent hamper to CD; is preparing drawings for his presentation at the Linnean Society; asks after William, and hopes to be able to come to visit.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 274.1: 1
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10517F,” accessed on 13 April 2024,

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