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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Giles Bridle Daubeny   5 July 1862

Botanic Garden. | Oxford.

July 5th. 1862

My dear Sir,

I took occasion last week in a lecture on Orchids to notice your interesting researches on the agency of Insects in distributing the Pollen of that class of plants, and as it was the first time that your views had been publickly noticed at Oxford, since the famous discussion in which the Bishop of Oxford & Huxley played so prominent a part,1 took advantage of the opportunity to set the Academical public ⁠⟨⁠righ⁠⟩⁠t as to the general tendency of your former work, and its bearings on Theology.

As I have no intention of publishing my Lecture which indeed contained little or nothing which has not been much better explained by yourself and other original investigators of the subject of orchids, I have got the few concluding remarks transcribed, under the impression, that it might be satisfactory to you to see the light in which your enquiries were represented in one of the great centres of clerical influence.—2

The account you give of your own researches is so clear and compleat, that the only point upon which I am somewhat puzzled, is as to Insects visiting the same species of orchis from which they had abstracted the Pollen. Are they attracted to one Species more than to others? for if not, the fertilisation of the flower must be a matter of accident; and although the same remark may apply to other plants, which have their pollen distributed by the same agency, yet the rarity of certain orchises renders the difficulty greater in their case than in most others.—

Owing to my having been absent in Italy all the winter and part of the spring, it is long since I have met you at the Philosophical Club,3 or elsewhere in London, but I hope I may augur favorably of your health from the activity with which you have pushed your researches

Believe me | ever | dear Sir | yrs faithfully | C Daubeny

CD annotations

2.4 it might … influence.— 2.6] double scored brown crayon
3.2 Insects … Pollen. 3.3] double scored brown crayon
3.6 yet … others.— 3.8] double scored brown crayon
4.2 it is … researches 4.4] double scored brown crayon


Daubeny held the chairs of botany and of rural economy at the University of Oxford. He refers to the verbal exchange between the bishop of Oxford (Samuel Wilberforce), Thomas Henry Huxley, and others, on 30 June 1860 at the Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. For accounts of this incident, see Correspondence vol. 8, letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 July 1860, and ibid., Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI. At the same meeting Daubeny read a paper on plant sexuality in regard to CD’s views, in which he expressed ‘dissent from the Darwinian hypothesis in the full extent to which the Author seems disposed to carry it’ but denied ‘that any higher considerations than those of pure science need enter into the field of discussion’ (Daubeny 1860, p. 26); CD considered the paper ‘very liberal & candid’ (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Charles Lyell, 11 August [1860]).
The manuscript has not been located, but see Daubeny’s comments on this subject in Daubeny 1867, 2: 192–8.
Daubeny refers to the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Daubeny, Charles Giles Bridle. 1867. Miscellanies: being a collection of memoirs and essays on scientific and literary subjects, published at various times. 2 vols. Oxford and London.


Sends concluding part of his recent lecture on orchids so CD may see how his inquiries were represented in one of the great centres of clerical influence.

Asks whether insects are attracted to one species of orchids more than another.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Giles Bridle Daubeny
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Botanic Garden, Oxford
Source of text
DAR 162.1: 115
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3643,” accessed on 3 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10