skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Cattell   12 May 1860


May 12th/60

Dear Sir,

Pray receive my best thanks for your very kind and sympathysing letter—1

I much regret I cannot do more for you in the articles you write about.

Auriculas of the named kinds I am not a grower of, I had in the autumn a nice batch of seedlings but they are nearly all killed    My Linum flavum are destroyed, and out of something like a hundred thousand Lettuce plants I have none to send you, the few I have done up are seedlings    they will produce seed should we have a fine autumn.

Apples all gone.

I think there is a place on our Chart (Common)2 where I could get a good bunch of Common Polyanthus flowers, should they be of any service to you    I shall have much pleasure in getting them, or anything else at any time that I can send you for your observation I shall be happy in doing so, Please to allow me to remark that we are in the habit of saving several kinds of Lettuce Seeds near at hand but have never observed that they cross naturally3

I am | Dear Sir | Yours obedly | John Cattell

C. Darwin Esq

CD annotations

1.1 Pray … doing 5.4] crossed pencil
5.4 Please … naturally 5.6] scored brown crayon

CD note:4

Ex | Exper. Book p. 8— 2 Lettuces grown together did not cross— but then did not flower together* (Cattell told me they wd not).


CD’s letter has not been found. Cattell was a nurseryman and seedsman in Westerham, Kent; his father, also John Cattell, had died on 5 May 1860 (England & Wales, national probate calendar (index of wills and administrations), 1858–1966, 1973–95 (, accessed 10 January 2018).
Westerham Chart is a large area of common land adjacent to Westerham.
CD was investigating the natural crossing of different varieties of garden plants and vegetables grown in close proximity. See also letters to M. T. Masters, 7 April [1860] and 13 April [1860], and letter from William Masters, 8 May 1860.
CD’s note is in DAR 77: 172b. It refers to an experiment he carried out at Down and recorded in his Experimental book, p. 8 (DAR 157a).


Cannot provide plants CD requested.

Has sowed several kinds of lettuce seed near each other and has never observed them to cross naturally [see Cross and self-fertilisation, p. 173 n.].

Letter details

Letter no.
John Cattell
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 77: 171–2a
Physical description
ALS 3pp †, CD note

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2796,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

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