skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Coe   18 September 1858

Asylum— Knowle— | Nr. Fareham. Hants.

18th Septr. 1858.—


I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 12th.—1

In reference to the fact of the pure Black Bean having produced almost or quite as extraordinary a mixture of Plants, both in flower & seed and tallness as the crossed Beans—I am unable to throw any light—

The original four rows of Negro Beans were uniform in flower foliage and height.— 2

I have for several years grown the Negro, and found them come true, the only exception being if they are not sufficiently ripened before being taken up for drying. I have known the seed to change to a kind of slate colour, these Beans upon being planted have always returned to the original black.— I therefore do not consider them to be varying.—

I have carried out the proposal made in my last communication by sorting twelve distinct colours of the crossed seed and planting each kind as far apart as possible. (over an extent of five acres of ground)

The Beans are not yet sufficiently ripened to enable me to form a conclusive opinion of the whole of them.—

Would you like to have a sample of each of the twelve sorts with their originals, if so, will you kindly send me word. I shall then feel it a pleasure in forwarding them upon their being properly ripened.—

I have now enclosed a few of the original and produce of the patch No. 8.— They are a most extraordinary sample—I am quite at a loss to account for the different colours, can you afford me any information for my guidance?—3

I have no objection to the results being communicated to the Gardeners Chronicle, but with all deference would not an article from your able pen be more likely to answer the purpose?4

With the greatest respect, | I am Sir, | Your humble Servant | Henry Coe C. Darwin. Esqr.

CD annotations

double scored pencil
Top of first page: ‘done’pencil


CD’s letter has not been found. For Henry Coe’s earlier correspondence with CD, see Correspondence vol. 6, letters from Henry Coe, 4 November 1857 and 14 November 1857. Coe was a gardener at the Hampshire County Lunatic Asylum.
In 1856, Coe had planted four rows of Negro dwarf kidney-beans between rows planted with white and brown dwarf beans. When he harvested the crop, he found that the Negro beans bore traces of apparent cross-pollination and had produced all shades of brown, black, and mottled-white beans. Coe sent samples of these seeds to CD (Correspondence vol. 6, letters from Henry Coe, 4 November 1857 and 14 November 1857), some of which CD sowed in 1858, finding that the resulting plants exhibited ‘the most extraordinarily heterogeneous mixture which can be conceived’ (see letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle [before 13 November 1858]; Collected papers 2: 23).
Packets of the seeds sent by Coe are in DAR 142.
CD cited the results given in this letter in a paper entitled ‘On the agency of bees in the fertilisation of papilionaceous flowers, and on the crossing of kidney beans’ published in Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 13 November 1858, p. 829 (see letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 13 November 1858]). The paper was reprinted in Annals and Magazine of Natural History 2 (1858): 459–65. See also Collected papers 2: 19–25.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Cannot explain impurity of his alleged pure lines.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Coe
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Knowle Asylum, Hampshire
Source of text
DAR 161: 194
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2326,” accessed on 1 April 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7