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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Masters   8 May 1860


8 May 1860

Dear Sir,

In reply to your enquiry about Hollyhocks, the sorts were all growing in one bed, and in rows many plants of each kind in a row—1

As it regards Cabbages & Savoy &c I have found the purple Cale or Kale to be the most infectious of all Varieties—2 a few years agone, a Cottager 12 a mile distance was growing some for Seed and to my knowledge no Kale was nearer—and yet my pure stocks became seriously affected with purple bastards (sic Shakespear) the year following.

In this case insects were the probable Carriers.

Believe me Dear Sir | Your obliged Servant | William Masters

Ch Darwin Esqr

CD annotations

1.1 In reply … a row— 1.2] crossed pencil; ‘Distance of pollen    crossing’ added red crayon
2.1 Cabbages] underl red crayon
Top of first page: ‘Ch 3.’ brown crayon ; ‘Keep for last chap’; ‘Also Gartner’3 red crayon


See the letter To M. T. Masters, 25 April [1860] and n. 8. CD had directed queries about variation and crossing in sweetpeas to William Masters earlier in the year through his son Maxwell Tylden Masters. See letters to M. T. Masters, 7 April [1860] and 13 April [1860], and letter from William Masters, [after 7 April 1860]. William Masters was a seedsman who lived in Canterbury, Kent.
Cabbages are described in Variation as plants that cross readily.
CD’s annotation refers to chapter 3 of Natural selection, ‘On the possibility of all organic beings occasionally crossing’. The plant breeding experiments of Karl Friedrich von Gärtner are cited frequently in this chapter.


Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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


Observations on hybrids from crossed cabbage varieties.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Masters
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 76 (ser. 2): 166–7
Physical description
ALS 2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2792,” accessed on 29 November 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8