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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Henry Johnson   14 November 1880

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

Nov. 14th 1880

My dear Johnson

An overwhelming lot of letters has prevented me from thanking you sooner for your answer about the slope of the ground at Worcester; also your daughter for her very kind note.1 I hope before very long to hear again about my other bothersome questions. My heart & soul care for worms & nothing else in this world just at present!2

But I write now to say that I have directed a new book by me on the “Power of Movement in Plants” to be sent you,3 (& it will arrive in about a week) & to add that it is unreadable except by a specialist. If you read Introduction & last chapter you will know whole contents, except the evidence on each head.— Whilst correcting proofs, I bethought me of an old paper by you, but I had forgotten reference, & as far as my memory served me it was chiefly or exclusively on the movements due to difference in tension in different parts, as when a dandelion peduncle is split & such cases do not concern me.4 But if you have treated of other subjects, I shall be punished for my idleness.

I have written today, seven letters & am quite tired, so Farewell | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


Johnson’s letter and the note from his daughter, Mary Elisabeth Johnson, have not been found.
CD’s letter has not been found; he was working on Earthworms.
Johnson’s name appears on the presentation list for Movement in plants (see Appendix IV).
Johnson had observed the movements of plants such as the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) after their stems had been divided or notched; he attributed the subsequent movements to a ‘vital contractile power’ analogous to the irritability of animal tissue (Johnson 1835a and Johnson 1835b; see Correspondence vol. 27, letter to Henry Johnson, 24 September 1879).


Earthworms: The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1881.

Johnson, Henry. 1835a. On the general existence of a newly observed and peculiar property in plants, and on its analogy to the irritability of animals. London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science 3d ser. 6: 164–9.

Johnson, Henry. 1835b. On divergence as the cause of motion in plants. London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science 3d ser. 7: 357–62.


Thanks for information on the slope of ground at Worcester.

CD’s passion now is worms.

Sends Movement in plants. While correcting proof, CD remembered an old article by HHJ, which he regrets not including.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Johnson
Sent from
Source of text
Shrewsbury School, Taylor Library
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12816,” accessed on 21 June 2024,