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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   22 January [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 22d

My dear Henslow

I write merely to thank you for your note, though my former one did not require an answer.

I have entirely forgotten (& it is stupid of me) that you had told me about the wild carnation seed.—2

Mr Tollet, (W. Clive’s father in law) is dead.—3 Have you seen A. de candolle’s Geographie Botanique; it strikes me as a quite wonderful & admirable work.—4

I saw in the Times the death of your mother, but at so venerable an age that life can hardly be to any worth much further prolongation.5 In one sense I never knew what this greatest of losses is, for I lost my mother in very early childhood.—6

My dear Henslow | Yours most truly | Charles Darwin

P.S. | I have been sowing some of the seeds from Hitcham this morning.7


Dated by the reference to the death of Henslow’s mother (see n. 5, below).
George Tollet of Betley Hall, Staffordshire, a close friend of Emma Darwin’s father Josiah Wedgwood II, had died in 1855. William Clive, vicar of Welshpool, Montgomeryshire, had been an exact contemporary of Henslow’s at St John’s College, Cambridge (1813–18). He had married Marianne Tollet in 1829.
Frances Henslow, née Stevens, had died on 15 January 1856 at the age of 80.
Susannah Darwin had died on 15 July 1817, when CD was 8½ years old. In an autobiographical fragment written in 1838 (Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix III), CD stated that he scarcely remembered his mother’s death and had few recollections of her.
CD intended to begin experiments designed to ‘break the constitution’ of plants (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. S. Henslow, 29 October [1855]). Several small girls from Henslow’s parish of Hitcham, Suffolk, had collected seeds from local plants for CD in 1855. In his Experimental book (DAR 157a) on 22 January 1856, CD recorded sowing Henslow’s seeds. The experimental results were recorded in May and June (see letter to J. S. Henslow, 16 June [1856]).


Candolle, Alphonse de. 1855. Géographie botanique raisonnée ou exposition des faits principaux et des lois concernant la distribution géographique des plantes de l’époque actuelle. 2 vols. Paris: Victor Mason. Geneva: J. Kessmann.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Alphonse de Candolle’s Géographie botanique [raisonnée (1855)] strikes him as a wonderful, admirable work.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A108–A109
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1823,” accessed on 16 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6