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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   [17 August 1878]1



My dearest F,

Have these precious seeds, sent by Dyer, sown in 3 Pots.2

Would it not be worth while to clean with tepid sponge 12 small cabbage or sea-kale leaf—leave for 2 or 3 days—then cut leaf off & gently submerge for some hours in water & compare stomata,, whether open or shut, on the 2 halves?3

I enclose letter from George; he sent a card this morning (which in your mothers hands disappeared like a flash of lightning, never to be found again) saying that Routh says George is all right in his mathematical view.—4 You are a wicked man never to have told us a word about yourself or Bernard.—5 I like De Vries very much— I hardly ever saw so modest a man.—6

Ever yours | C. D.


The date is established by the address. The Darwins visited Barlaston, Staffordshire, the home of Emma Darwin’s brother Frank Wedgwood and his family, from 15 to 22 August 1878 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)); the only Saturday during this period was 17 August.
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer had sent seeds of Trifolium resupinatum (Persian clover; see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 24 August [1878]).
CD and Francis had been investigating the function of bloom, a waxy or powdery coating on leaves and other parts of plants. Francis later noted that he had been asked to investigate the relation between bloom and the location of stomata, or breathing pores, of leaves (F. Darwin 1886, p. 99). CD’s suggestion evidently relates to this work.
The letter from George Howard Darwin has not been found, but see the letter to G. H. Darwin, 17 [August 1878]. Edward John Routh was a well-known mathematics coach at the University of Cambridge.
Francis had joined the Darwins at Leith Hill Place, Surrey, on 8 August 1878 (letter from Francis Darwin, [4–7 August 1878]); he and his son Bernard Darwin returned to Down on 12 August (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). Francis had been away from 3 June 1878, when he had travelled to Würzburg to work in the laboratory of Julius Sachs (letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 2 June 1878).
Hugo de Vries visited CD at Abinger on 14 August 1878 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Darwin, Francis. 1886. On the relation between the ‘bloom’ on leaves and the distribution of the stomata. [Read 4 February 1886.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 22 (1885–6): 99–116.


Instructions to sow some seeds

and suggestions for experiment on effects of removal of bloom.

Likes Hugo de Vries very much; has hardly ever seen so modest a man.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 211: 44
Physical description
ALS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11668,” accessed on 14 April 2024,