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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   8 October [1876]

Bassett | Southampton

Oct 8th

My dear Frank

I send by todays post the Pop. Science Review, as there is a short article by Dallinger well worth your reading. One figure gave me a cold shudder about amœbæ on the summits of the branches of an alga;1 but a few minutes reflexion made me quite easy about your teazle-glands.2

There is near end of vol. a curious little notice about Cats.—3 I shall be glad to hear that you are able to work even for half-an-hour on the Teazle paper, though I well know what an exertion & what dismal work it will be to you my dear boy.—

Hereafter at Down I shd like to try my hand at cutting off under the 110th inch lens, the top of a gland, so as afterwards for you to see very clearly the nature of the tissue.— I cannot get it out of my head that there ought to be orifices. Could the protoplasm be stained with carmine before the top of gland is cut off,—i.e. if it can be cut off?—4

The Printers are going to set up soon the Orchis book, & then I shall to get your assistance.5

My love to Horace & to your dear second mother, Mrs. Ruck.6 | Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin

William is fairly cheerful & well. He has had the Bank for 3 days all to himself & this has tried his head a little. His house is an extraordinarily nice one & we are superbly comfortable here.7


The article by William Henry Dallinger, ‘Practical notes on “heterogenesis”, a reputed feature of spontaneous generation’, appeared in the October 1876 issue of Popular Science Review (Dallinger 1876). It discussed evidence that had been advanced in support of the theory of spontaneous generation by Henry Charlton Bastian, including an amoeba that was supposed to have arisen from a fungus found with anacharis, a waterweed. Dallinger argued that the amoeba had merely attached itself to the fungus and was feeding upon it (Dallinger 1876, pp. 345–6, and p. 351, fig. 11). For CD’s interest in Dallinger’s work, see the letter to W. H. Dallinger, [after 10 January 1876] and n. 4.
Francis was experimenting with protoplasmic filaments that protruded from gland-cells on leaves of the common teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris, a synonym of D. fullonum; see letter from Francis Darwin, [1 June 1876] and n. 2). He later described the filaments as possessing a contractile power similar to that of the amoeba (see F. Darwin 1877a, pp. 6–7).
The October 1876 issue of Popular Science Review reported an experiment on the homing instinct of cats (Popular Science Review 15 (1876): 437–8). CD had published on the homing instinct in animals in his letter ‘Perception in the lower animals’, Nature, 13 March 1873, p. 360 (see Correspondence vol. 21, letter to Nature, [before 13 March 1873], and letter from Arthur Nicols, [before 20 March 1873]).
For details of the experiments undertaken on teasels, see F. Darwin 1877b.
CD stayed at William Erasmus Darwin’s house in Southampton from 7 to 20 October (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). William was a partner in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dallinger, William Henry. 1876. Practical notes on ‘heterogenesis,’ a reputed feature of spontaneous generation. Popular Science Review 15: 338–50.

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.


Sends an article for FD.

Is glad he is able to work on his teasel paper [Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 26 (1878): 4–8]; suggests some observations FD could make.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
OC 9 76
Source of text
DAR 211: 16
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10635,” accessed on 19 May 2022,

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