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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   16 June [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

June 16th

My dear Henslow

You may remember sending me seed of “Myosotis repens or cæspitosa, Stowmarket”.2 The next time you go that way, would you be so kind as to gather me a tuft in flower & send it in letter that I may see what the aboriginal is like.— I send one of my cultivated specs., (1st generation) that you may see it, not that I suppose it is anyways remarkable.—

Secondly, can you give me the address of shop in London, where, years ago, I got on your recommendation nice square strong paste-board Boxes, about 15 inches square: I cannot myself remember in the least where it was.—

Thirdly, when will you publish some little Book to show how to teach Botany on Nat. System to children:3 How I wish you would: my children are always asking me, & I have no idea how to begin. If you can’t or won’t publish, pray tell me what Book I had better get: Lindley’s School Bot. is out of Print,4 which Hooker recommended to me;—not that, I suppose, that would have done to teach children by.— Forgive my 3 questions, & answer them when at leisure, or rather when least busy.

My dear Henslow | Your’s most truly | C. Darwin

Your Lychnis-plants are flourishing & I am dosing them & others, with Guano water, salt-petre & common salt, & intend thus to make the most wonderful transformations,—that is, if the plants have any gratitude, for they evidently much like the doctoring.—5


Dated on the basis of entries in CD’s Experimental book (DAR 157a) pertaining to the plants discussed in the letter (see nn. 2 and 6, below).
See letter to J. S. Henslow, 22 January [1856]. On 22 January 1856, CD recorded in his Experimental book, p. 1 (DAR 157a) having planted Henslow’s seeds. Later in the year, he recorded (p. 7): May 21st The flowers of Myosotis repens or cæspitosa in sun in K. Garden, seem from memory twice as big as former pink flowers.— Those in shady Place behind wall are some blue & large & some pink & small. The tube of [‘corolla’ del] calyx seems certainly longer in the blue than in pink flowers, in proportion to division of calyx.— June 16th The specimens in shade have larger flowers with emarginate petals in slight degree.
Henslow had been teaching botany to children in the Hitcham parish school since 1852. His ‘Practical lessons in botany for beginners of all classes’ were published in a series of fourteen articles in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette beginning in July 1856. See also Russell-Gebbett 1977, chapter 4, for an account of Henslow’s school teaching. No separate primer of the natural system in botany was published by Henslow.
Lindley 1854, the third edition of John Lindley’s School botany: an explanation of the characters of the principal natural classes and orders of plants (London, 1839).
See Correspondence vol. 5, letters to J. S. Henslow, 11 July [1855], 21 July [1855], and 28 July [1855]. On 13 June 1856, CD recorded in his Experimental book, p. 9 (DAR 157a): The Lychnis (red) dioica which has had so much salt & Guano, in the female stems are certainly less red & less hairy than the other plants [interl] which only occasionally have had Guano alone. CD was attempting, by varying external conditions, to ‘break’ the constitution of plants.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Lindley, John. 1854. School botany, and vegetable physiology; or, the rudiments of botanical science. A new edition. London.

Russell-Gebbett, Jean. 1977. Henslow of Hitcham: botanist, educationalist and clergyman. Lavenham, Suffolk: Terence Dalton.


Sends a cultivated specimen of Myosotis (first generation) grown from seed sent by JSH. Asks for a tuft of flower.

Hopes JSH will publish a book on teaching botany, because he has no idea how to begin with his children.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A110–11
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1903,” accessed on 3 February 2023,

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