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Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Caird to T. H. Farrer   2 March 1878

3. St James Square.

March 2.–78.

Dear Mr Farrer.

In case I may miss you at the Board of Trade. I write a note to tell you what I have done.1 In the first place I saw Mr Jenkins the Secretary of the Royal Agrl. Society2 who says he has no doubt that the Experimental Committee would undertake a trial of the Potato plants in various localities on being secured in the matter of expense.

Then I went to Mr Carruthers, F.R.S. the Botanist of the Society & of the British Museum, and had a long conversation with him, the gist of which you will find in the accompanying letter which I requested him to write to me—3

He does not think Mr. Torbitt has got so far advanced in his experiments, as were the hard potatoes submitted to trial by the Royal Agr. Society in 1874.4

I send you an account of these experiments, and I think you might send it & Mr Carruther’s letter to Mr. Darwin for his consideration.5

Then I would suggest a meeting of Mr. Darwin, Mr Carruthers, yourself & me to talk the matter over, before asking the Government to undertake any expense. You may fix it either here or at the Board of Trade; any day up to & inclusive of Thursday next, & not earlier than 3 o’clock. Mr Carruthers is at our disposal till Thursday— So if you & Mr Darwin fix place & day, & let me know. I shall get Mr Carruthers to attend—

Believe me | Very truly yours. | James Caird.

T. H. Farrer Esq.


Farrer was permanent secretary of the Board of Trade; he had met with Caird to discuss possible support from the Royal Agricultural Society of England for James Torbitt’s project for breeding blight-resistant potatoes (see letter from T. H. Farrer, 28 February 1878).
The letter from William Carruthers has not been found (however, see n. 5, below).
In 1874, the Royal Agricultural Society offered two prizes for potatoes that proved disease resistant after three years; six varieties were submitted and these were planted in different part of England, Scotland, and Ireland (see Nature, 19 November 1874, p. 56). Joseph Dalton Hooker and William Turner Thiselton-Dyer had been highly critical of the society’s efforts to support research on potato disease (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from J. D. Hooker, 3 March 1874, and Nature, 26 November 1874, p. 67, and 17 December 1874, pp. 128–9).
Caird showed CD a memorandum by Carruthers when they met on 3 March 1878 (see letter to James Torbitt, 4 March 1878); however, this has not been found.


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


Concerns [James] Torbitt’s potato plants and the question of their trial by the Experimental Committee of the Royal Agricultural Society and a request to the Government for the needed expense. THF and CD to set a date for consultation with the botanist [William] Carruthers.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Caird
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st baronet and 1st Baron Farrer
Sent from
London, St James Square, 3
Source of text
DAR 144: 2
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11394F,” accessed on 23 March 2023,