skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   2 June [1879]1

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

June 2nd

My dear old F.

Your letter has interested me greatly in many ways. It is a real good job to get some microscope work under an experienced man.—2

I have been particularly glad to hear about Frank & [rather] a man like Stahl says various plants being treated like mere machines— you know that what I have long been saying.3

It is funny about Sachs giving up so completely about growth & this also I am glad to hear.4 I think you omitted to send one page of your letter, for I cannot join on two parts.

I have finished the first time of going over old Dr Ds life: it has run to 130 pages. I am now wading through it again & am heartily sick of the job, from not knowing whether it is worth anything.—5

I forgot about the Silver-fir: I brought home one very old & dead & small swelling— Perhaps Stahl will recognise whether this is the case. The apogeotropism of the shoots produced at their hypertrophic places alone interests me.—6 I am not very well, so no more today— Abberdubby is very flourishing & cocket.—7

Your affect. father | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Francis Darwin, 29 May 1879.
Francis had asked Ernst Stahl about Albert Bernhard Frank. Stahl admired Frank’s approach in studying plant movement (see letter from Francis Darwin, 29 May 1879 and n. 9). In Movement in plants, pp. 571–3, CD noted similarities in plant and animal movement, in particular the localisation of sensitiveness and transmission of an influence from an excited part to another part, which then moved.
Francis reported that Julius Sachs had given up his earlier belief that heliotropism depended on the mere difference of light on two sides of any plant (see letter from Francis Darwin, 29 May 1879).
CD had spent several weeks working on a biographical sketch to introduce an English translation of Ernst Krause’s essay on Erasmus Darwin (Krause 1879a). The translation appeared in November 1879 (Erasmus Darwin).
In his letter of [before 29 May 1879] CD had asked Francis to find and read an account of fir trees affected by fungus. The ‘hypertrophic places’ are cankers or swellings from which abnormal shoots are produced in fungus-infected silver fir trees. The shoots, usually produced on lateral branches, are strongly apogeotropic, that is, bend or turn away from the ground. CD’s notes on affected branches of silver fir, dated 22 May 1879, are in DAR 209.5: 225; the branch was collected at Leith Hill Place, Surrey, where CD visited from 21 to 26 May 1879.
Abberdubby was a pet name for Francis’s son, Bernard Darwin. ‘Cocket’: pert, saucy; brisk; merry (OED).


Erasmus Darwin. By Ernst Krause. Translated from the German by W. S. Dallas, with a preliminary notice by Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1879.

Krause, Ernst. 1879a. Erasmus Darwin, der Großvater und Vorkämpfer Charles Darwin’s: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Descendenz-Theorie. Kosmos 4 (1878–9): 397–424.

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


Thanks for FD’s letter describing microscopic work under experienced supervision.

Is glad to hear of C. E. Stahl’s objection to treating plants as mere machines.

Pleased that J. von Sachs has yielded on growth.

Perhaps Stahl will recognise whether the case of the silver fir is the same as that referred to in the German account [see 12074b].

CD has finished the first draft of his essay on Erasmus Darwin’s life and is "heartily sick of the job".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 271.4: 15
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12078A,” accessed on 27 May 2022,