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Darwin Correspondence Project

To D. F. Nevill   19 November [1861]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Nov. 19th


I do not know how sufficiently to thank your Ladyship for your singularly kind note & the magnificent present of Orchids.2 I should have much enjoyed accepting your Ladyships permission to see your famous collection of Orchids; but my health is far from strong & the journey would be very fatiguing to me. The Orchids have interested me extremely & some of them have been most useful; but they were unfortunately rather too dry. If I might venture to ask your Ladyship I hope you will thank your gardener for sending me so clear a list of names.—

Only one of the sorts arrived too withered for examination (for my object) viz the Bolbophyllum. If your Ladyship could spare me one more spike, with a few unopened flowers on it, & have the kindness to direct it to have a little damp moss tied round the cut end & sent by post (in tin Box or cannister if possible), it would be of great use for my work. Some of the species, as your Ladyship knows, of Bolbophyllum have the little lip or Labellum within the flower irritable, so as to move when touched; I shd. be very truly obliged if your Ladyship could have this point ascertained,—that is if you can send me one more spike.—

If I understand your Ladyship’s note, there is no chance of your being enabled to send me a Mormodes or Cycnoches, in the course of a few weeks.—

I believe that your Ladyship understands the natural enthusiasm of a naturalist over his subject, & to this alone I can trust for your Ladyship to excuse the length to which this note has run.

With the most sincere thanks, I beg leave to remain your Ladyships | Very truly obliged | Charles Darwin

I will take the liberty of doing myself the pleasure of sending to you a copy of my little book on Orchids when published.—3

If a single flower of Mormodes or Cycnoches should open & your Ladyship could send it; it would be necessary that it should be tied down to bottom of Box or basket, so that not even an atom of moss should fall on the irritable top of column; & damp moss should be tied closely round the cut end. These genera would be a priceless treasure to me.—


Dated by reference to the publication of Orchids, which appeared in May 1862.
Nevill’s letter has not been found. It was in response to CD’s letter to her of 12 November [1861]. Nevill kept a notable garden at Dangstein, near Midhurst, Sussex, in which she especially cultivated orchids, nepenthes, and other tropical plants (R. Desmond 1977).
Nevill’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Orchids (DAR 210.18).


Desmond, Ray. 1977. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists, including plant collectors and botanical artists. 3d ed. London: Taylor and Francis.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Declines invitation to visit DN’s orchid collection. Thanks for orchids and list [of available plants]. Requests a few more spikes of Bolbophyllum, particularly of species with irritable labellum.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Dorothy Fanny Nevill
Sent from
Source of text
Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3324,” accessed on 18 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9