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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   23 October [1862]1


Oct 23—

My Dear Father,

I am sorry to hear Capt Sullivan has knocked you up,2 I wonder you have heart for the Lythrum. You will have got my note saying how the first L.P. Lythrum grew. I think I said the plant grew 4 or 5 yds from any other3

I am not sure that it may not have been farther; the plants along the ditch were pretty nearly all solitary plants, so that any how the first L.P. Lythrum is a solitary plant compared to the plant I have last sent you. What an odd thing it is about M.P. Lythrum the pods I sent you of M.P. are all from one plant.

I could easily get you some more M.Ps. on Sunday, as they are as easy to distinguish as L.Ps. and at same time I could measure, if you liked, how far the first plant of L.P was distant from any other plants; only perhaps it will be hardly fair at this time of year, as so many plants may be broken short down.  there is one funny thing about the M.P. that I set down as rubbish at the time; that in a clumps of Lythrum, I could distinguish at a distance by the general look and colour of the pods, the M.P.; but could not distinguish the L.P. from the S.P.4

I remember this both the times I have been to get pods, but have always set it down as humbug or odd chances, and so not looked carefully.

Poor little Maud Atherley will not live I am afraid; yesterday she was weaker than ever, and Mr A. told me last night, he thought he should lose her.5 I have not seen him yet this morning which is a bad sign   Mrs Pratt has let her rooms at last; three set of people came for them on one day, each a better offer than the other; which is always her luck she says.6

Your affect son | W. E Darwin.

I will send the Saturday Review tomorrow, it is not much of a review, as the reviewer does not pretend to know much about it.7

I do’nt want it back

Mr Keele has just told Mr Fall8 that there are very little hopes of Maud, as she is lying insensible—3.30


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. E. Darwin, 21 October [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10).
On 21 October 1862, Bartholomew James Sulivan, John Clements Wickham, and Arthur Mellersh visited CD at Down House and stayed overnight (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). CD’s letter to William about the visit has not been found, but CD told John Lubbock, ‘Two days ago three officers of the Beagle came here to dinner; I took every possible precaution, but it made me very ill with violent shaking & vomiting till the early morning; & Could not even wish them goodbye next morning’ (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Lubbock, 23 October [1862]).
See Correspondence vol. 10, letter from W. E. Darwin, 21 October [1862], in which he described the place in which the Lythrum with long pistils was growing.
William was collecting seed-pods from the three forms of Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife), namely, those with long pistils (L.P.), medium pistils (M.P.), and short pistils (S.P.); CD published his research in ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria.
Maud Elizabeth Atherley, the daughter of George Atherley, William’s banking partner, was seriously ill (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from W. E. Darwin, 21 October [1862]).
Mary Pratt ran a lodging house in Southampton.
Orchids had been reviewed in Saturday Review, 18 October 1862, p. 486.
Probably Charles Patton Keele. Philip Carteret Fall was a partner in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank.


‘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.]


Sends observations on Lythrum. Reports bad health of Maud Atherley.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 9)
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3777F,” accessed on 19 May 2022,

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