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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   18 October [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Oct. 18th

My dear Henslow

I write to thank you for your note & to say that I shd. be very glad to have your Photograph.— You cd. leave it for me at Royal Soc. or Linn. Soc. or Athenæum Club, wherever most convenient to you.—

The plant with green flowers was this year’s seedling; but apparently only certain twigs on same plant were thus characterised. I had fancied that the 6 seeds was oddest part; but after sending you the specimen, I found flower with 10 sepals & two pistils & 8 or 10 imperfect seeds—; & other flowers with only 3 seeds.—2

I feel pretty sure I could make any flower in some degree monstrous in 4 or 5 generations.3

I am very glad to hear of the grand success of the Hitcham Hort. Soc. It must be very pleasant to you.—4

I noticed the Death of your Aunt.5 If you keep your health, God grant you may live as long.

Most truly yours | C. Darwin


Dated by the reference to the death of Henslow’s aunt (see n. 5, below).
An idea of the kinds of experiments CD was conducting in his attempt to break the constitution of plants comes from a letter Joseph Dalton Hooker wrote at CD’s urging to George Bentham in the summer of 1857. Hooker asked Bentham: ‘Have you ever made any observations on inducing varieties by playing tricks with plants? as by high manuring wild species; plucking all their flowers off for several years; pruning; &c. Darwin wants to know who has done such things.’ (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 452).
The Hitcham Labourers’ and Mechanics’ Horticultural Show, held 16 July 1857, was reported in Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 3 October 1857, p. 679: Amidst our numerous harvest homes and happy children’s fêtes, this gathering maintains, under Professor Henslow, its instructive and pleasant attractions. The lawn in front of the rectory is made gay with flags and streamers, and the visitor comes immediately upon two tents of excellent construction, one of large dimensions for the show, and the other called the Marquee Museum, containing objects of interest on which the Professor gives instructive little lectures in the course of the day. See also Russell-Gebbett 1977.
Ann Henslow, ‘dau. of the late Sir John Henslow, formerly Surveyor to the Navy, and aunt to the Rev. Professor Henslow, of Hitcham Rectory’, died at Bildeston, Suffolk, aged 90, on 9 October 1857 (Gentleman’s Magazine n.s. 3 (1857) 2: 574).


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


Sends details on Myosotis sports. Feels sure he could make any flower in some degree monstrous in four or five generations.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A45–6
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2154,” accessed on 11 May 2021,

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