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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Meehan   13 May 1878

Down. | Beckenham Kent (&c).

May 13th. 1878.

My dear Sir.

When I read your Article, it certainly made me think that you wished indirectly to throw doubt about my observations & I did not like the indirect manner of your doing so,—as it then seemed to me, More especially as you did not state that my observations had been fully confirmed by Profr Hildebrand, which I mention in my book.—1 Nor do you allude to the statement by Dr. Alefeld, that there are no Heterostyled Linums endemic in N. America, though this may be erroneous notwithstanding that it has just been confirmed2

It seemed to me that you were bound at least to state whether your plant was long or short styled.—3 Such a manner of treating the work of other observers did not appear to me the way to encourage truth.

But after your letter just received I shall never think again on the subject, & I hope that you will not do so, except perhaps to make you pause for a few minutes—4

I remain | My dear Sir. | Yours faithfully, | Ch. Darwin.


CD refers to Meehan’s letter in Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, December 1877, p. 189 (see letter from Thomas Meehan, 28 April [1878] and n. 3). CD’s observations on self-sterility in Linum perenne (blue flax) had been confirmed by Friedrich Hildebrand (see ‘Two forms in species of Linum, p. 81, Hildebrand 1864, p. 2, and Forms of flowers, p. 98).
Friedrich Alefeld had noted that North and South American species of Linum had monomorphic flowers with capitate stigmas and styles united (Alefeld 1863, p. 281). For the confirmation CD refers to, see A. Gray 1878b.
Meehan had raised a single plant of Linum that he brought from Colorado; in his published letter (see n. 1, above), he identified it as L. perenne, but gave no morphological description of the flowers.


Alefeld, Friedrich. 1863. Ueber Linum. Botanische Zeitung, 18 September 1863, pp. 281–2.

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

Hildebrand, Friedrich. 1864. Experimente über den Dimorphismus von Linum perenne und Primula sinensis. Botanische Zeitung 22: 1–5.

‘Two forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]


Criticises article by TM. "Such a manner of treating the work of other observers did not appear to me the way to encourage truth."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Meehan
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 146: 356
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11507,” accessed on 23 April 2024,