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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   28 [February 1878]1

4. Bryanston St.

Thursday 28th

My dear Hooker

You will probably receive a printed letter from Mr Torbitt, giving the results of the selection & cross-fertilisation of Potatoes.2 I beg you to read it with care; for I have just had interview with Farrer on subject & he is is going to speak to the Duke of Richmond’s Secretary, & other influential men, if after considering the subject, he should agree with me that it would be a dreadful pity if hundreds of thousands of cross-fertilised seeds from already partially selected parents were thrown away.3

He thinks that if the Government is inclined to take it up, they will apply to you for advice.— Mr Torbitt says he cannot afford to go on without some aid in money.— If aided he will continue his experiments4

Pray reflect on difference in varieties of Vitis in resisting Phylloxera— of apples in resisting Coccus— of Peaches in resisting mildew &c &c.—5 These cases make me hopeful that Mr. T. may succeed, & indeed he seems to have been partially successful already, but he is dreadfully enthusiastic.— He does not want payment for 3 past years only aid in future.—

I can write no more.— Am so unwell that we have come to London for change & rest.6

Yours affect | C. Darwin

I hear you have sent more Cycas seeds to Down—particularly obliged— have ordered them to be sown properly.7


The month and year are established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to James Torbitt, 26 February 1878. In 1878, the Thursday after 26 February was 28 February.
In his letter to Torbitt of 26 February 1878, CD had asked Torbitt to send Hooker a copy of Torbitt’s printed letter to the chancellor of the Exchequer (enclosure to letter from James Torbitt, 24 February 1878).
Thomas Henry Farrer had visited CD at CD’s daughter Henrietta Emma Litchfield’s home in Bryanston Street, London, where CD was staying; see letter to James Torbitt, [28 February 1878]. The sixth duke of Richmond was Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox; his secretary has not been identified.
Vitis is the genus of grapevines; phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) is a small sap-sucking insect native to North America, accidentally introduced in the mid nineteenth century to Europe, where it devastated native grapevines because it attacked the roots. In American vines, the insect usually only affected the leaves. Coccus viridis is a soft scale insect that is hosted by apples and other fruits and vegetables. Podosphaera is a genus of fungi that cause powdery mildew in peaches and other rosaceous plants.
CD was in London from 27 February to 5 March 1878 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
Hooker had sent Cycas seeds in 1877; see Correspondence vol. 25, letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 November [1877]. CD discussed movement of the cotyledons of Cycas pectinata in Movement in plants, pp. 58 and 78.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Movement in plants: The power of movement in plants. By Charles Darwin. Assisted by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1880.


CD solicits JDH’s aid in obtaining Government funds for James Torbitt’s efforts to breed disease resistance in potatoes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
London, Bryanston St, 4
Source of text
DAR 95: 449–50
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11380,” accessed on 13 April 2024,