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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Clarke   20 September 1862

St. Leonard’s | N.S.W.

20 Sepr. 1862.

My dear Sir,

I beg you to accept my best thanks for your book on the Orchids1—which as yet I have been too busy to read—but from which I anticipate a great deal of instruction.

I have been so much occupied of late with unavoidable business of all kinds, that I have had less time for scientific pursuits than usual. I have, however, managed to send off a box of specimens to Mr. T Rupert Jones—which if you are in town in the end of Novr. or beginning of December he will be able, perhaps, to show you.2

I took the liberty of writing to Mr. Moore on the strength of your kind letter.3 I intended that the Mesozoic fossils should have come home before this: but they will so next month.

Can you advise me what to do about the description &c of all my fossils. There is a sum of 5000£ down on the Estimates for me this year—but the Parliament will expect me to do something in the way of a general Geoll. work on Australia as an acknowledgment.4 How can I get the fossils described and figured, best?—

My experiments here on Goodenia do not satisfy me.5 The season has not been favourable—and blossoms not abundant. What we had covered under glass—did not seed.

Mr. C. Moore Director of the Botanical Gardens will seek out for me as many specimens as possible and subject them to the most rigid trial.6 I will report thereon to you.—

There is a prospect of a good Native Bee Comb for you—7 I have a person on the lookout for me—(they are scarcer than they used to be)—and when I get it, I will forward it you, with a letter.—

I hope you are now better than when you wrote last.

Since Burke and Wills—Landsborough and McKinley as well as Walker have been across the Continent to the Gulf! Stuart’s is the only party now out.—8

Believe me | My dear Sir, | Yrs. very truly | W. B. Clarke.

C. Darwin Esqre. &c—


Orchids was published in May 1862; Clarke’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for the work (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix IV).
Clarke had asked Thomas Rupert Jones to assist him in finding someone to describe and draw his entire collection of Australasian fossils (see letter from W. B. Clarke, 20 June 1862 and nn. 2 and 3).
CD’s letter has not been found. He had apparently written for Clarke a letter of introduction to the geologist Charles Moore, who Clarke hoped would describe his collection of fossils from Wollumbilla Creek, Queensland (see letters from W. B. Clarke, 21 January 1862 and 20 June 1862).
In 1861, CD had asked Clarke to cover with a net any species of Goodeniaceae just before the flowers opened, so as to exclude insects, and observe whether or not the plant set seed (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to W. B. Clarke, 25 October [1861]). See also letter from W. B. Clarke, 16 January 1862.
Charles Moore was director of the Botanic Gardens, Sydney (R. Desmond 1994).
In his letter to CD of 20 June 1862, Clarke promised to attempt to procure a native Australian bee comb for CD. See also letter from W. B. Clarke, 16 January 1862.
A reward of £10,000 had been offered by the legislature of South Australia for the first successful crossing of the Australian continent from south to north, and subsequently, a number of parties had attempted the crossing. Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills succeeded early in 1861, but perished on the return journey. William Landsborough, John McKinlay, and Frederick Walker each commanded search parties for Burke and Wills. Beginning in 1858, John McDouall Stuart made two unsuccessful attempts at the crossing, before eventually succeeding in 1862 (Aust. dict. biog. and EB, s.v. Australia).


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

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.


Acknowledges presentation copy of Orchids.

Asks advice on what to do with all his fossils. Sending various specimens.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Branwhite Clarke
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 175
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3733,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

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