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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   27 May 1881

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

May 27th 1881

My dear F.

I despatch today Ch VI & VII, so thank Heaven I have completed first time over. The end of Ch. VI is awfully dull, but is I think worth giving. I shall now begin on your corrections on Ch. III.— Attend to my query about last sentence of book; as Ruskin said the beginning & the end of every book is humbug.—1

Remember we start early on Thursday June 2d, & address so that no proofs may come here.2 Our address is

Glenrhydding House



Bernard is quite jolly. He asks every post whether any letter from you & I think he expects more soldiers, but with his delicate little soul, he said that he shd. not ask you to send any more.—3

I have received a Sweadish book “Växtformationerna” by R. Hult.— I cannot read a word, but suspect it all about bloom.!4 Also a big book from Hensen of Kiel, “Physiologie der Zeugung”.—5 This seems interesting, though chiefly on animals, but all sorts of queer points appear to be discussed.— If you hear anything about these 2 books I shd like to hear it; & how far Hensen is esteemed as a physiologist. He quotes me a good deal, but I do not know whether favourably.—6

Rose, Henrietta, Franke & Richter come to luncheon today & I shall like to hear the latter play.—7

Leonard was much afraid he cd not have come with us, but he travels & stays with us, which is a very good job.—8 Horace writes in great hopefulness about the Pendulum & about the shop.—9

My dear F | your affectionate Father | C. Darwin


CD and Francis were correcting proof-sheets of Earthworms. The query mentioned has not been identified, but CD may have written it on one of the proof-sheets; these are no longer extant. CD had met John Ruskin in 1879 when the Darwins visited Coniston in the Lake District (see Correspondence vol. 27, letter to G. J. Romanes, 14 September [1879] and n. 5). For more on the Darwins’ visit with Ruskin, see Healey 2001, pp. 301–6.
The Darwins went on holiday to Patterdale in the Lake District from 2 June to 5 July 1881 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Francis often sent his son Bernard Darwin paper soldiers (see letter from Francis Darwin, 19 [May 1881] and n. 13).
Ragnar Hult’s doctoral dissertation, ‘Försök bis analytisk behandling af växtformationerna’ (Attempt at an analytical approach to plant formations; Hult 1881), was, in fact, about the structure of plant communities; CD’s copy has not been found.
Victor Hensen’s work, Physiologie der Zeugung (Physiology of reproduction; Hensen 1881) has not been found in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Hensen cited several of CD’s works, for example Variation, Orchids, Cross and self fertilisation, Descent, and ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula (see Hensen 1881, pp. 150, 169–70, 175–6, and passim). He discussed CD’s provisional hypothesis of pangenesis, noting that CD had understood what a theory of heredity needed to account for, so the hypothesis was a good starting point for further development (ibid., pp. 216–22).
Constance Rose and Johannes Hermann Franke, Hans Richter, and Henrietta Emma Litchfield. Richter, a noted conductor, was in London for the Richter Concerts, a series started by Franke (Musical World 58 (1880): 279). Richter could play on every musical instrument except the harp, as well as sing (Grove 2002).
Leonard Darwin was accompanying the Darwins on their holiday to the Lake District (see n. 2, above).
Horace Darwin was constructing a pendulum for a committee of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, set up to measure the lunar disturbance of gravity (for a description of the development of the pendulum, see Nature, 3 November 1881, p. 20). The ‘shop’ was the recently founded Cambridge Scientific Instruments Company, a partnership between Horace and Albert George Dew-Smith (see Cattermole and Wolfe 1987, pp. 12–22).


Cattermole, Michael J. G. and Wolfe, Arthur F. 1987. Horace Darwin’s shop: a history of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company 1878 to 1968. Bristol and Boston: Adam Hilger.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

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

Grove, George. 2002. The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians. 2d edition. Edited by Stanley Sadie. 29 vols. Oxford: Grove (Oxford University Press).

Healey, Edna. 2001. Emma Darwin: the inspirational wife of a genius. London: Headline Book Publishing.

Hensen, Victor. 1881. Physiologie der Zeugung. Part II: Physiologie der Zeugung. Vol. 6 of Handbuch der Physiologie. Edited by Ludimar Hermann. Leipzig: Vogel.

Hult, Ragnar. 1881. Försök till analytisk behandling af växtformationerna. Meddelanden af Societas pro Fauna et Flora Fennica 8: 1–155.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Dispatches chapters six and seven [of Earthworms].

Asks for any opinions on V. Hensen and his book, Physiologie der Zeugung [1881], which seems interesting.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 211: 77
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13179,” accessed on 7 June 2023,