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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Darwin   [c. 25 February 1879]1

Villa Beau Séjour | Colonne Voirol | Algiers

My dear Father,

I am very sorry you have been hunting for the thing with the hollow handle. I am afraid I can’t tell anything about it. All the rough tools of that kind I put in the 2nd draw from the left in that sort of of table behind the balance table in my room: you will find 2 sizes of bradawls there but I am afraid not the hollow thing. I brought one fine pincers here as I meant to put litmus on leaves if there was heavy dew: the other one is ⁠⟨⁠in⁠⟩⁠ a wooden box in the dark cupboard which Lettington knows.2 I am very sorry you have had a bother about it— There are 3 wire forceps hanging up on nails on the right of the fireplace if you want them.

Thank you for you kind words. I am getting on very well, I can get along with doing nothing pretty well.3 I havn’t had energy to take lessons in French, as it envolves going in nearly 4 miles & out again. I have been looking at some compositæ which have rosettes of leaves, (as you were).4 They dont seem to care about geotropism for they make perfect rosettes with the outer leaves all flat against the ground even when they grow on vertical surfaces of earth of which there are many here at the sides of the lanes. I forget what Dr Vries says about them.5 I found wasps going to an Agave in flower; & cutting it open I found the inside of the flower lined with aphides & some of them sticking to the honey—they dont often go inside do they. These aloe leaves where they overlap and press against one another in the bud make perfect impressions of the edge of one leaf on the surface of the next, & the formation of bloom seems affected as there is a thicker layer where the pressure has been, & this helps to define the impression.6 I have been out a Sunday herborisation with old Durando   there were 20 or 30 French people & they seemed quite interested about the flowers, writing down the names & putting specimens in tin boxes; he gave very good little jaws about them   I am going to meet him today in the Jardin d’Acclimatisation where he will take me round I suppose—7 I have been there for a short time but G was tired & we came away— it is the place Dyer8 meant & is very interesting with all sorts of things growing out of doors. I forget to say that the Klein meeting was pretty well attended & it is agreed to give him a testimonial not as a lump of money but as an expression of sympathy—so I suppose it is not necessary to give very large subscriptions. I think I shall give £5; if you subscribe before I come back will you pay 5£ for me saying that I am away—but I don’t know that there is any hurry— The secretary is

Malcolm Morris Esq

63 Montague Sq9

Please thank mother & Bessy10 for their letters— I am glad poor Ubbadubba11 has got some nice dirt to play with instead of my saw dust   Give him my best love & say I will bring him a little red cap with blue tassel like the little ubbadubbas here were— I forgot that new caps are rather painful to him so perhaps it had better not be mentioned.

Goodbye dearest father | Your affec son | Frank Darwin

It was very good of Henrietta to write to me about vaccination but I dont think it is necessary12


The date is established by the reference to the subscription to the Klein testimonial; see n. 9, below.
Francis had gone to rest and visit George Howard Darwin in Algiers; see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 3 February 1879 and n. 4.
‘Rosettes’ are circular arrangements of leaves in which either the upper foliage dies back with the remaining vegetation protecting the plant, or internodes along a stem are shortened, bringing the leaves closer together; this leaf structure is common in the Compositae (daisy family).
No work by Hugo de Vries on these structures has been identified.
The genera Agave and Aloe both have fleshy leaves arranged in a rosette pattern, but they are native to Central and South America and Africa, respectively. However, Agave species have been naturalised in Africa since the sixteenth century and were grown commercially in Algeria, so when Francis refers to aloe leaves he probably means Agave leaves. CD began studying bloom (the waxy coating on the leaves and fruit of many plants) in 1873 (see Correspondence vol. 21, letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 August 1873). He suspended his work on the subject in 1874 (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 28 [June 1874] and n. 7), and began again in 1877 (Correspondence vol. 25, letter to Fritz Müller, 14 May 1877). CD never published on bloom, but in 1878 Francis followed up Julius Sachs’s suggestion about the relation of bloom to distribution of stomata (see Correspondence vol. 26, letter from Francis Darwin, 24 and 25 July 1878); Francis published some of the results of these experiments in F. Darwin 1886.
Gaetano Durando was a correspondent of CD’s and had provided him with seeds; see letter to Francis Darwin, [4 February – 8 March 1879] and n. 4. The Jardin d’acclimatation (originally Jardin d’essai or experimental garden, now Jardin botanique du Hamma) was in the Hamma district (now Belouizdad) of Algiers.
In December 1878, Edward Emanuel Klein had followed other staff at the Brown Institution, London, in resigning his position. After the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in 1876, the institution had become a prominent target of attack and its research plans were severely restricted (see Nature, 19 December 1878, pp. 151–2). Malcolm Morris lived at 63 Montagu Square, London. An entry for ‘Klein’s Test’ in CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS) dated 25 February 1879 records a payment of £5 5s.
Henrietta Emma Litchfield’s letter has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.


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.


Directs CD where to find tools in his room. Has been looking at agave and aloe flowers. Thanks family for their letters.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Colonne Voirol, Algiers
Source of text
DAR 274.1: 60
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11883F,” accessed on 7 June 2023,