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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   11 [July 1878]1

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


My dear George

I cannot tell you how I rejoice that the Lagrange’s case does not seem very bad—2 I feel sure that two men working on something analogous is an advantage, as far more likely to attract the attention of astronomers.—

I am working hard at Thalia & enjoy dissecting & microscope & have recovered some handiness.3 I have managed by cutting away all petals & organs except the enfolding one to feel sure this is the retainer & I am almost certain it is a case of true sensitiveness like that of Dionæa.—4 The cavity is the true stigma, for I found many pollen-tubes there deeply inserted; whereas the pollen-grains in the receptacle on the white sticky mass had not once exserted a tube. This sticky matter is merely a means to retain the pollen in the receptacle, after it has been scooped out of the anther.—5

Hurrah for the sticky stigma & the sticky or viscous bowels of the earth—6

Yours | C. D.


The month and year are established by the reference to Thalia dealbata (see n. 3, below).
George had been worried that his work on astronomical movement might be pre-empted by Charles Henri Lagrange (see letter from G. H. Darwin, [before 11 July 1878]).
CD had asked George to make drawings of the pistils in specimens of Thalia dealbata (powdery alligator-flag) that he had sent him (see letter to G. H. Darwin, 10 [July 1878]). CD was interested in determining whether the pistil was itself irritable or whether its movement was purely mechanical (see letter to Francis Darwin, 7 [July 1878]).
Dionaea muscipula is the Venus fly trap. CD suspected that the pistil itself of Thalia dealbata was irritable.
CD had described the the pistil as ‘rectangularly bent’ with at its summit a white pollen-filled knob that he identified as a stigma, and with a second stigma in a cavity below the bend (see letter to G. H. Darwin, 10 [July 1878]).
George was probably working on his paper ‘On the precession of a viscous spheroid, and on the history of a remote earth’, received by the Royal Society of London on 22 July, in which he treated the earth as a viscous body subject to disturbances from both the moon and the sun; his calculations indicated that enormous periods of time would be required for the evolution of the planetary system (G. H. Darwin 1878d).


Rejoices that "Lagrange’s case does not seem very bad".

CD is working hard at dissecting Thalia. Has recovered some handiness with microscope.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 70
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11601,” accessed on 14 April 2021,