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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   2 October [1876]

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

Oct 2d

My dear Boy

Your last corrections gave me a fearful grind, & this was owing to their goodness, for I had to accept all; and now they are all despatched to the Printers.1

I find in Bechstein’s “Der Gemeine Iltis” is the Mustala putorius Linn. Fitchet of Pennant (or polecat)2

Das “Frett oder der Kaninchen-iltis” is the M. furo Linn. or Ferret.3

I thought that the paper about crossing rats was more curious than that on the Iltis; & that on monkey’s rumps interested me most & George thought it very curious—4 I intend before very long to write a letter to Nature on the latter head, & I think I will get you to return the numbers on this subject,—that is if you do not translate it. (I find that I have copious notes).—5 But I hope that you may be able to begin your paper on the teazle, as this I think will compel your attention better than anything else.6

If you read Wiesner I shd very much like to hear anything which bears on the protection of protoplasm or chlorophyll from water, as this wd have a most direct bearing on my observations, if I ever continue them.7 I will give orders about the Daffodils.

Goodbye my very dear son, | Your affect. Father | C. Darwin

We go to L. H. Pl. on the 4th. & leave early on the 7th for W. where we shall probably stay a fortnight—8 such are your mother’s orders. If I finish Revises then, I shd. be glad for the paper on monkeys, as I shall have nothing to do.—

The Grapes for you were despatched on Saturday evening


Francis was correcting the proof-sheets of Cross and self fertilisation (see letter to Francis Darwin, 27 [September 1876] and n. 2).
The common or European polecat (Mustela putorius) is described as ‘Der gemeine Iltis’ in Bechstein 1801–9, 1: 779–90, and as the fitchet in Pennant 1793, 2: 37. Copies of these works are in the Darwin Library–CUL.
The ferret (now Mustela putorius furo) is described in Bechstein 1801–9, 1: 791–97; and Pennant 1793, 2: 40.
CD had suggested that Francis translate several articles from German, including papers by Johann von Fischer on rats (Fischer 1874b) and monkeys (Fischer 1876a; letter to Francis Darwin, 20 September [1876]). The paper on the Iltis (polecat) was Fischer 1873. CD refers to George Howard Darwin.
CD discussed Fischer 1876a in an article in Nature, 2 November 1876, pp. 18–19, ‘Sexual selection in relation to monkeys’.
On Francis’s experiments with the common or fuller’s teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris, a synonym of D. fullonum), see the letter from Francis Darwin, [1 June 1876] and n. 2. The results were published in F. Darwin 1877b.
CD had sent Francis a book by Julius Wiesner in May (see letter from Francis Darwin, 27 May 1876). The book has not been identified, but was possibly a collection of essays published to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Imperial and Royal Zoological-Botanical Society of Vienna; the collection included an essay by Wiesner, ‘Die natürliche Einrichtungen zum Schutze des Chlorophylls der lebenden Pflanze’ (Natural contrivances for the protection of chlorophyll in living plants; Wiesner 1876). CD had been made a member of the society in 1867 (Freeman 1978) and may have received the volume, but it has not been found in the Darwin Library–CUL.
CD was at Leith Hill Place in Surrey, the home of Josiah Wedgwood III and Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, from 4 to 7 October, and at William Erasmus Darwin’s house in Southampton from 7 to 20 October (‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Bechstein, Johann Matthäus. 1801–9. Gemeinnützige Naturgeschichte Deutschlands nach allen drey Reichen: ein Handbuch zu deutlichern und vollständigern Selbstbelehrung besonders für Forstmänner, Jugendlehrer und Oekonomen. 2d edition. 4 vols. Leipzig: Siegfried Lebrecht Crusius.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Fischer, Johann von. 1873. Iltis (Mustela putorius) und Frett (Mustela furo). Der Zoologische Garten. Zeitschrift für Beobachtung, Pflege und Zucht der Tiere 14: 108–12.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Wiesner, Julius. 1876. Die natürliche Einrichtungen zum Schutze des Chlorophylls der lebenden Pflanze. In Festshrift zur Feier des funfundzwanzigjährigen Bestehens der k. k. zoologisch-botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien. Vienna: W. Braumüller. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus.


Thanks FD for corrections [to Orchids (1877)].

Thinks Johann von Fischer’s paper on monkeys’ rumps [Der Zoologische Garten 17 (1876): 116–27, 174–9] worth translating, and he intends to write a letter on it to Nature [Collected papers 2: 207–11].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
OC 2 76
Source of text
DAR 211: 15
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10629,” accessed on 5 July 2022,

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