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Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Torbitt   [after 19 November 1879]1

Wall Heath Nr. Dudley.

November 19th 1879

Dear Sir,

I am much obliged to you for 16 seed potatoes weighing 2 lbs 12 oz which reached here safely on the 17th April last & agreeably to your conditions in the ‘Field’ Newspaper on the 12th of that month beg to send you results.2

Immediately on their arrival I placed them to sprout in a moderately warm frame along with my bedding out plants but it was not until the 20th May when I thought they had grown sufficiently (about half an inch) that I cut them into 41 sets and planted them in some good rich soil dug two spits deep with only a small quantity of ordinary farm yard manure added

The crop was lifted on 28th October & found to weigh 2012 lbs—the whole of the tubers with the exception of one about the size of a walnut being entirely free from disease*

I have caused a few to be boiled & found them very good cookers & eaters

A good many of them grew irregular in shape but I should think the produce was over the average in this District—this wretched season3

Truly yours. | Willm Meredith

James Torbitt Esqre. | 58 North Street | Belfast.

* very probably this is not the fungus—these small tubers being often otherwise diseased

Scattered all over the Kingdom, there are, perhaps a thousand growers like this, but it will require two or three years more for the varieties to attain sufficient bulk to be appreciated.



The date is established by the date of the William Meredith’s letter to Torbitt. Torbitt added a note (‘*very … diseased’) at the end of Meredith’s letter, and wrote a second note (‘Scattered … J. T.’) across the text of the first page of the letter.
Torbitt probably referred Meredith to his article ‘On potato growing’ in the Field, 12 April 1879, pp. 435–6.
The winter of 1878–9 was exceedingly cold, and was followed by an exceedingly wet summer (Manley 1974).


Manley, Gordon. 1974. Central England temperatures: monthly means 1659 to 1973. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 100: 389–405.


Encloses a report on JT’s potato varieties by William Meredith, one of the many individuals in the country who are growing them.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Torbitt
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 158
Physical description
ALS 1p, encl ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12337,” accessed on 21 June 2024,