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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. C. Watson   8 [August 1862]1

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

July 8th

My dear Mr Watson

You are accustomed to me applying to you when in want. And now I am in great want. I am trying a most laborious series of experiments on Lythrum salicaria, & I think if the result can be proved, which I fully expect to be the case, you will think that your aid will be worth bestowing.2

what I want intensely is a few fresh flowers of the rare Lythrum hyssopifolia. Vaucher says it presents two forms like Primula,3 & these would be invaluable to me; why they would be so is too long a story for a note. Can you give me address (& allow me to use your name) to some one or two Botanists, who may live anywhere near this plant, & who would aid me.—4 If too late for fresh plants, perhaps I could then get seed.— If you can, will you aid me?—

I have had a sick House for last 8 weeks, with one of my poor Boys terribly ill, whom we must take to sea-side next week.5 All this has cut up my work in a cruel degree.— How is your poor patient, whom you mentioned a year or so ago:6 you spoke then as if there was little hope. For five years we have never been a whole month without some anxiety. It is a weary world.—

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The date given by CD has been changed on the basis of Watson’s endorsement and CD’s reference to Leonard Darwin’s having been ill for ‘8 weeks’ (see nn. 5 and 7, below).
For CD’s experiments on Lythrum salicaria, see, for example, the letter to Daniel Oliver, 29 [July 1862] and n. 6.
No letter from Watson on this subject has been found; however, in ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria, p. 190, CD thanked Watson for having provided him with dried specimens of L. hyssopifolia (Collected papers 2: 124).
CD refers to Leonard Darwin, who had been ill with scarlet fever since mid-June (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 13 [June 1862]).
This individual has not been identified.


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

‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’: On the sexual relations of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 June 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 169–96. [Collected papers 2: 106–31.]

Vaucher, Jean Pierre Etienne. 1841. Histoire physiologique des plantes d’Europe ou exposition des phénomènes qu’elles présentent dans les diverses périodes de leur développement. 4 vols. Paris: Marc Aurel Frères.


Asks HCW’s help with his experiments on Lythrum salicaria, for which he needs flowers of the rare Lythrum hyssopifolia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Hewett Cottrell Watson
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University (bMs 7.10.2)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3646,” accessed on 28 May 2024,

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