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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. J. Romanes   16 June [1878]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

June 16th.

My dear Romanes.

Do just what you like in both cases. The notes on insects were made about 40 years ago; & I have just recollected that I used them in drawing up a long chapter on instinct, written 4 or 5 years before the “Origin” was published. I send the two pages out of this Chapter which please return. I wish it had occurred to me to offer you this chapter of 110 pages to read; for in skimming over parts of it, I find abundant references to many curious facts. It is I presume now quite too late to be of any use to you—2

Here is a new case about Baby-language: Frank took the Baby in a train & called the engine a ‘puff puff’ & this was altered by him into “boo boo”. Now every vehicle, even a wheel barrow, is called a ‘boo boo’, as is a chimney on a house whether smoking or not, & a house itself. So again is a fire whether burning or merely laid to be lighted.3

Rather more onions of the last lot have died, apparently owing to the wet weather, but still the number of deaths is few.4

One Pea has sent up a miserably aborted shoot, apparently consisting of a half plumule.5

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from G. J. Romanes, 18 June 1878.
No earlier exchange of letters about the notes has been found, but CD had sent his 1848 notes on instinct in bees and wasps (DAR 73: 21–2), which he used in chapter 10 of his ‘big book’ on species, entitled ‘Mental powers and instincts of animals’ (published in 1975 in Natural selection, pp. 466–527). Romanes was preparing for his lecture ‘Discourse on animal intelligence’, delivered at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Dublin on 16 August 1878 (Report of the 48th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1878): lxxv; G. J. Romanes 1878b).
Francis Darwin and his son, Bernard Darwin. Romanes’s work on the physiology of the nervous systems of jellyfish (medusae) had led him to the topic of animal behaviour, including human and animal language development (see Schwartz 1995, pp. 306–12).
CD was growing onions in the garden at Down for Romanes’s grafting experiments to test CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis (see letters to G. J. Romanes, 9 April [1878] and n. 4, and 13 May [1878]).
CD was conducting experiments on the movement of the common pea (Pisum sativum; see Movement in plants, pp. 158–63).


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

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Schwartz, Joel S. 1995. George John Romanes’s defense of Darwinism: the correspondence of Charles Darwin and his chief disciple. Journal of the History of Biology 28: 281–316.


Sends two pages from MS chapter on instinct. Presumes it is too late for chapter to be of use to GJR.

After train ride Baby [Bernard Richard Meirion Darwin] calls every vehicle "boo boo".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George John Romanes
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.537)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11555,” accessed on 21 April 2021,