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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   18 June 1879

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

June 18th 1879.

My dear Dyer

The plants arrived last night in first-rate order; & it was very very good of you to take so much trouble as to hunt them up yourself.1 They seem exactly what I wanted, & if I fail it will not be for want of perfect materials.— But a confounded Painter (I beg his pardon) comes here to night, & for next two days I shall be half dead with sitting to him;2 but after then I will begin to work at the plants & see what I can do, & very curious I am about the results.—

I have to thank you for two very interesting letters. I am delighted to hear & with surprise that you care about old Erasmus D.— God only knows what I shall make of his life,—it is such new kind of work to me.—3

Thanks for case of sleeping Crotalaria—new to me.—4

I quite agree to every word which you say about Ball’s Lecture— it is as you say like Sir W. Thompson’s meteorite— It is really a pity— it is enough to make geographical Distribution ridiculous in the eyes of the world.—5 Frank will be interested about the Auriculas: I never attended to this plant, for the powder did seem to me like true “bloom”.—6

This subject, however, for the present only, has gone to the dogs with me.—

I am sorry to hear of such a struggle for existence at Kew; but I have often wondered how it is that you are all not killed outright.—7

I can most fully sympathise with you in your admiration of your little girl.— There is nothing so charming in this world, & we all in this house humbly adore our grandchild, & think his little pimple of a nose quite beautiful8

with hearty thanks, yours very sincerely Ch. Darwin


Thiselton-Dyer had sent several species of plants with aerial roots for CD’s research on their tropic movements (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 5 June 1879 and n. 2).
CD’s portrait was being painted by William Blake Richmond (see letter to John Fiske, 10 June 1879, n. 2).
The only extant letter from Thiselton-Dyer at this time is his letter of 10 June 1879, which is incomplete. In that letter, Thiselton-Dyer promised to write again when he sent the plants with aerial roots, but that letter has not been found. The incomplete letter or the missing letter evidently contained Thiselton-Dyer’s comments on CD’s research on his grandfather Erasmus Darwin.
See letter from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 10 June 1879 and n. 5. Crotalaria is the genus of rattlebox.
Part of the letter of 10 June 1879, in which Thiselton-Dyer discussed John Ball’s paper on the origin of alpine flora (Ball 1879), is missing. Ball had argued that flowering plants first evolved in alpine regions and challenged the theory of glacial migration that was part of CD’s theory of geographical distribution (see Origin, pp. 367–70). Thiselton-Dyer had evidently referred to William Thomson’s theory that the sun’s energy was continually topped up by meteors and asteroids falling into it at a regular rate (see W. Thomson 1862). Thomson’s suggestion that life on earth could have originated from meteorites had also been heavily criticised (W. Thomson 1871, pp. civ–cv; see Correspondence vol. 19, letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 August 1871).
Thiselton-Dyer had sent CD an extract about the meal or farina found on many varieties of auricula (Primula auricula; see letter from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 10 June 1879 and n. 3).
The information about the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was in the incomplete or the now missing letter (see n. 3, above).
Thiselton-Dyer’s daughter, Frances Harriet, was a year old. Bernard Darwin was almost 3.


Ball, John. 1879. On the origin of the flora of the European Alps. [Read 9 June 1879.] Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography 1: 564–89.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Thomson, William. 1862a. On the age of the sun’s heat. Macmillan’s Magazine 5: 388–93.

Thomson, William. 1871. Presidential address. Report of the 41st Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Edinburgh (1871): lxxxiv–cv.


Thanks for plants

and case of sleeping Crotalaria.

"Bloom" for the present has "gone to the dogs".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Darwin: Letters to Thiselton-Dyer, 1873–81: ff. 176–7)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12114,” accessed on 24 May 2022,