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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   [15 January 1877]1

Basset, | Southampton.


My dear Father

Thank you for the copy of the Orchids, which I am very glad to read again, as it is long since I read the old edition; your book has been the sire of a tremendous progeny & I send on a note of Mrs Bullar’s as to bees & Holly, she saw your letter quoted in the Times; I have heard many complaints about here that there were no holly berries.2

I have had a very long odd letter from Gordon which I will send on soon, but it must not go out of the house as it would not be fair.3

After seeing Ld Derby he has settled not to go out in the Khedives service, but he Gordon has a grand idea of getting a large concession of land from the sultan of Zanzibar, and opening a route to the lakes that way, and he thinks it can be done & the money found.4

I had pleasant day with Maxse and lots of radical talk.5

I hope your visit in London has rested you.6

I shall probably get home in a Sunday or two7 | Your affect son | W.E.Darwin


The date is established by the reference to CD’s London visit and by the reference to the letter from Charles George Gordon (see nn. 3 and 6, below).
Orchids 2d ed. was published in January 1877 (Publishers’ Circular, 1 February 1877, p. 93). William’s name is on CD’s presentation list for the volume (see Appendix IV). The note from Rosa Bullar on bees and holly has not been found. Several correspondents responded to the letter CD had written to Gardeners’ Chronicle, 3 January [1877], which had been reprinted in full in The Times, 11 January 1877, p. 7 (see letter from Allen Stoneham, 11 January 1877, letter from G. M. Tracy, 11 January 1877, letter from Alfred Grugeon, 14 January [1877], letter from F. W. Pim, 15 January 1877; see also Gardeners’ Chronicle, 13 January 1877, p. 52, 20 January 1877, p. 83, and 3 February 1877, pp. 148–9).
The letter from Charles George Gordon to William, dated 14 January 1877, is in DAR 210.7: 6. Gordon discussed his theological views as well as his experience in Sudan.
Edward Henry Stanley, the fifteenth earl of Derby, was foreign secretary. Gordon had served under the khedive (Ottoman viceroy) of Egypt, Ismāʿīl Pasha, as governor-general of the Equatorial Province in the south of Egyptian-occupied Sudan from March 1874, and returned to England in December 1876. In his letter to William of 14 January 1877 (DAR 210.7: 6), Gordon wrote that he thought there were four great things to be done, the last of which, opening a road from the coast to the lakes in Africa, he wanted to pursue himself. He planned to seek a trading licence from the Sultan of Zanzibar (Ibn Said Barghash) for ten years and form a depot from which to push into the interior of Africa. In the event, Gordon was persuaded to return to the service of the khedive and became governor-general of Sudan (see Boulger 1896, 1: 162–3; 2: 1–4).
CD visited London from 6 to 15 January 1877 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
William visited Down on 27 January 1877 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Boulger, Demetrius Charles. 1896. The life of Gordon: major-general, R.E., C.B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand Cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titu (field marshal), Yellow Jacket Order. 2 vols. London: T. Fisher Unwin.

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


Thanks for the copy of Orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 66)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10794F,” accessed on 2 October 2023,