skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Daniel Oliver   14 April 1862

Kew G.

Monday. 14. IV. 1862

My dear Sir

How very kind you are to write me at such length!—1 The Linn: Socy . will pay Mr. Fitch. His bill amounts only to 10/.—2 It is curious about the Primrose ovules. I have repeated the obs. with same result & got the boy downstairs who knows nothing which I thought largest to compare bud of one with open flower of other & he wholly confirms me.3 However it must be variable & I ought to delete its mention or modify it in the M.S.S. which I send you by this post?4 that the No. of seeds matured may vary relatively in individual capsules tho’ as you shew more in the short-styled on the whole.— So with the ovules?

The whole paper however you may think so stupid & obscure & devoid of interest that I may have to burn it.— It is what I have hastily sketched out for N.H.R. You understand these things so infinitely better than I that you perhaps think me very foolish. You see it is anonymous!— Pray tell me if you think it worth putting in;—that is if you can find time to look at it. If you do not burn it wd. you kindly post it again to me.— The Atlantis Paper did not satisfy me.5 But with regard to greater prominence to early migration during warm period I merely must have taken it for granted that no body could have thought of any thing else.—unless it be plurality-of-centres-of-creation people.6

To write popularly I must learn how.— I am so stupid with a pen, that I believe one ought to sit down & attempt not to “write a paper”—but to “talk one”

The Corydalis with hole bit in at top we thought might be C. Marschalliana, but it was a doubtful plant rather. I shall write about the Primula farinosa.7

The Campanula I mention in the M.S.S.— as Brongiart had previously described similar structure I shall not write about it to Linn. Soc.8 The closed membrane was new to me over the sexual organs where I found it & extremely interesting. You see I have stopped at 2 kinds of dimorphism   doubtless this may be my ignorance. The thing is difficult to put in words—defining the kinds.—9 Now I must beg you excuse all this trouble.

I am not clear that I wholly apprehend your observatn. about water plants just yet.—10 I must read again.

Very sincerely Yours | Dal. Oliver

CD annotations

2.6 But … people. 2.9] cross in margin, brown crayon
4.1 The … rather. 4.2] cross in margin, brown crayon
5.2 The closed … interesting. 5.3] cross in margin, brown crayon


Walter Hood Fitch, a botanical artist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, had drawn the illustrations for CD’s paper, ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula (see letter to Daniel Oliver, 12 [April 1862]).
Oliver had observed a difference in the size of the ovules of long- and short-styled forms of Primula; on repeating the observation, CD had found the size difference to be the reverse of that described by Oliver (see letter from Daniel Oliver, 10 April 1862, and letter to Daniel Oliver, 12 [April 1862]).
Oliver refers to the manuscript of his review of CD’s paper on Primula ([Oliver] 1862c; see letter to Daniel Oliver, 15 April [1862]). Oliver repeated his observations, apparently without modification, in ibid., p. 237.
Oliver 1862b.
See letter to Daniel Oliver, 12 [April 1862]. Oliver refers to those who, like Louis Agassiz, advocated multiple centres of creation to account for sporadic or disjunct species (see Rehbock 1983, p. 152, and Browne 1983, pp. 138–44).
Oliver had offered to acquire for CD specimens of Primula farinosa (see letter from Daniel Oliver, 10 April 1862 and n. 9).
See letter from Daniel Oliver, 10 April 1862. Oliver refers to Brongniart 1839.
In [Oliver] 1862c, p. 236, Oliver stated: We may … rudely group the kinds of dimorphism exhibited in the flower under two heads. First, a dimorphism, apparently favourable to variation, marked primarily by a partial or complete separation of the sexes, which may be accompanied or not by alteration in the form or arrangement of the parts of the perianth surrounding them; and, second, a dimorphism, conservative, and unfavourable to variation, marked primarily by an alteration in the form or arrangement … of the outer whorls of the flower, which more or less completely enclose and seal up the sexual organs, which are never wholly separated.


Browne, Janet. 1983. The secular ark. Studies in the history of biogeography. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

Rehbock, Philip F. 1983. The philosophical naturalists. Themes in early nineteenth-century British biology. Madison, Wis., and London: University of Wisconsin Press.


Discusses primrose ovules,

Atlantis paper [Nat. Hist. Rev. (1862): 149–70],

plant migrations;


Letter details

Letter no.
Daniel Oliver
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 54–5
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3722,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

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