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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Alphonse de Candolle   24 January 1881

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Jan 24/81

My dear Monsieur de Candolle,

It was extremely kind of you to write me so long and valuable a letter, the whole of which deserves careful consideration. I have been particularly pleased at what you say about the new terms used, because I have often been annoyed at the multitude of new terms lately invented in all branches of Biology in Germany; and I doubted much whether I was not quite as great a sinner as those whom I have blamed.1 When I read your remarks on the word ‘purpose’ in your ‘Phytographie’, I vowed that I would not use it again; but it is not easy to cure oneself of a vicious habit.2 It is also difficut for any one who tries to make out the use of a structure to avoid the word purpose. I see that I have probably gone beyond my depth in discussing plurifoliate & unifoliate leaves; but in such a case as that of Mimosa albida, where rudiments of additional leaflets are present we must believe that they were well developed in the progenitor of the plant. So again when the first true leaf differs widely in shape from the older leaves, & resembles the older leaves in allied species, is it not the most simple explanation that such leaves have retained their ancient character, as in the case of the embryos of so many animals?3

Your suggestion of examining the movements of vertical leaves with an equal number of stomata on both sides, with reference to the light, seems to me an excellent one and I hope that my son Francis may follow it up.4 But I will not trouble you with any more remarks about our book.

My son will write to you about the diagram.5

Let me add that I shall ever remember with pleasure your visit here last autumn,6 & I remain dear Monsieur De Candolle

Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


Candolle had sent comments about Movement in plants and had praised CD’s terminology in the book (see letter from Alphonse de Candolle, 18 January [1881] and n. 3).
Candolle had referred CD to the discussion of ‘purpose’ in La phytographie (A. de Candolle 1880, pp. 212–15).
See letter from Alphonse de Candolle, 18 January [1881] and nn. 5 and 7. On rudimentary leaflets of Mimosa albida, see Movement in plants, pp. 364–5, 416.
Candolle had enclosed a table showing how hereditary characteristics could be represented over several generations with his letter of 18 January [1881]; the table has not been found.
Candolle had visited Down on 27 September 1880 (see Correspondence vol. 28, letter from Asa Gray, 30 September 18[80]).


Candolle, Alphonse de. 1880. La phytographie; ou l’art de décrire les végétaux considérés sous différents points de vue. Paris: G. Masson.

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


Thanks AdeC for interesting letter. CD has been annoyed by the multitude of new terms lately invented in all branches of biology in Germany. What AdeC says about the word "purpose" made CD vow not to use it again, but it is difficult to cure oneself of a vicious habit and difficult to avoid for anyone who tries to make out the use of a structure.

Francis will write about the diagram [see 13642].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alphonse de Candolle
Sent from
Source of text
Archives de la famille de Candolle (private collection)
Physical description
LS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13026,” accessed on 19 May 2024,