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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   14 May [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

May 14th

My dear Henslow

I have been greatly interested by your letter to Hooker;1 & I must thank you from my heart for so generously defending me as far as you could against my powerful attackers.—   Nothing which persons say hurts me for long, for I have entire conviction that I have not been influenced by bad feelings in the conclusions at which I have arrived. Nor have I published my conclusions without long deliberation & they were arrived at after far more study than the publick will ever know of or believe in.—   I am certain to have erred in many points, but I do not believe so much as Sedgwick & Co. think. Is there any Abstract or Proceedings of the Cambridge Phil. Soc. published? If so & you could get me a copy I shd like to have one.—2

Believe me my dear Henslow I feel grateful to you on this occasion & for the multitude of kindnesses you have done me from my earliest days at Cambridge.—

Yours affectionately | C. Darwin

P.S. I think I remember your observing that the pistil in different flowers of cowslips & Primroses varies much in length.3 From observations which I have been making I have strong suspicion that they (& Auriculas)4 are dioicous; but I shall know this autumn, for I have marked what I consider the male & female plants.5 Why I mention this to you, is that I have a vague remembrance of your stating that some other plants varied greatly in length of pistil; if so I shd much like to know what, that I might carefully observe them. Do not think of writing unless you can tell me of any such plants.—


Letter from J. S. Henslow to J. D. Hooker, 10 May 1860. Henslow had asked Hooker to send it on to CD.
Adam Sedgwick’s paper criticising Origin was not published in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, but a report of its contents was given in the Cambridge Chronicle, 19 May 1860, pp. 4–5, and in the Literary Gazette, 12 May 1860, p. 582. See letter to J. S. Henslow, 17 May [1860].
Henslow 1830.
CD’s Experimental book, p. 54 (DAR 157a) contains an entry dated 12 May indicating that CD examined ‘some common Auriculas supplied by Mr Cattell’. See also letter from John Cattell, 12 May 1860.
See the following letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 May [1860]. In a paper on the dimorphic condition of Primula published in 1861, CD suggested that these hermaphroditic plants were possibly in the process of becoming dioecious. Contrary to his expectations, the short-styled flowers produced more seed than the long-styled forms, and hence were more likely to become the future females. See ‘On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations’, Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96; Collected papers 2: 45–63.


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

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Thanks JSH for his defence [see 2794].

He is not hurt for long by what his attackers say. His conclusions were arrived at after long study. He has certainly erred, but not so much as "Sedgwick and Co." think.

Asks JSH to send names of plants that vary greatly in length of pistil.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A70–1
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2801,” accessed on 29 May 2023,

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