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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   14 June [1862]1


June 14.

My Dear Father,

I am very glad to hear they got home all safe, I dare say you were not sorry to get them, it is very unlucky about poor old Pouts just before the holidays begin.2 I send off your watch some time today.3

Do you know any reason why I should not offer myself for Sunday the 22nd, as Dr Hooker told me to write as soon as I had fixed my Sunday.4 I shall come to Down on the Monday and go up for the ball on Tuesday, and back on Wednesday to the C. P. so to Down, and to Southampton on Thursday.5 I dont know whether Etty told you of my seeing a fly(?) sucking Orchis Maculata the wrong way standing above it, and peering over to suck and leaning over sideways to other flowers with out getting off first flower, so that the pollinia were glued unsymmetrically to its mouth and not to its trunk.6

You are reviewed in the Hampshire Advertizer but I have not seen it yet7

your affect son | W E Darwin

CD annotations

1.1 I am … Thursday. 2.4] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘22dpencil after illeg pencil del pencil


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. E. Darwin, 13 [June 1862] (Correspondence vol. 10).
Emma Darwin and Horace Darwin had returned to Down after staying with William in Southampton from 3 to 12 June 1862. Leonard Darwin, known as Pouts or Pouter in the family, was sent home from school on 12 June because he had scarlet fever. (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242).)
CD had asked for his watch to be returned by registered post (Correspondence vol. 10, letter to W. E. Darwin, 13 [June 1862]).
William had wanted to visit Joseph Dalton Hooker at Kew for some time; see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [5 May 1862], letter to W. E. Darwin, [8 May 1862], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 9 May [1862].
The ball may have been associated with Godfrey Wedgwood’s marriage; the wedding took place in Pimlico, London, on Tuesday 24 June (Bark ed. 2014, p. xxxv). William was probably planning to visit the Crystal Palace at Sydenham en route to Down before returning home to Southampton.
In a note dated 20 June 1862 (DAR 70: 13–14), CD recorded that William had seen a fly remove pollinia of Orchis maculata (a synonym of Dactylorhiza maculata, the heath spotted orchid) in Southampton; he also noted that George Howard Darwin had caught six flies (Empis livida, a species of dance fly) with pollinia of O. maculata attached to their eyes, as well as one specimen of E. pennipes with pollinia attached to its thorax. CD added the information about George’s observations in Orchids 2d ed., p. 16, but did not mention William’s observation. Etty: Henrietta Emma Darwin.
The Hampshire Advertiser, 31 May 1862, p. 3, reprinted the review of Orchids that had appeared in the Athenæum, 24 May 1862, pp. 683–5. This was a critical review that CD feared would hinder sales (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Murray, 18 [June 1862] and n. 5). Although the Hampshire Advertiser omitted the sections from the Athenæum criticising CD’s views on insect fertilisation of orchids, it did include the final paragraph stating that Orchids did not fulfil CD’s aim of showing that all organic beings occasionally required cross-fertilisation.


WED’s travel plans; an insect he has observed on Orchis maculata.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 2)
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3604F,” accessed on 12 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)