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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Turner   [1 April – 16 June 1863?]1


I hope that you will excuse the liberty which I take in asking from you information on one small point, with permission to quote your name as my authority in a work which I am preparing for publication.2 I have found that the varieties of several kinds of Hollyhock come true from seed;3 now what I am anxious to know is, whether you find it necessary to grow the different varieties far apart from each other, in order to prevent crossing & to get true seed.— As I have repeatedly watched Bees carrying pollen from one variety to the other, I cannot understand how the seed can be true, unless the plants are grown very far apart: & yet I have been told that this plan is not always followed.—4

If you will have the kindness to answer me this question, I shd. feel extremely much obliged. I should, also, be glad to know which varieties you have found come truest by seed.—5

Hoping that you will excuse the liberty which I have taken & grant this favour I beg leave to remain | Sir | Your obliged servant


The date is conjectured from the reference to CD’s work on the draft manuscript of Variation (see n. 5, below). According to his ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II), CD prepared a draft of the section on ‘Crossing & Sterility’ (Variation 2: 85–144) between 1 April and 16 June 1863.
CD refers to Variation, which was eventually published in 1868.
CD had been seeking information on hollyhock breeding for some time (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter from William Herbert to J. S. Henslow, 5 April 1839, and Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. S. Henslow, 12 November 1855 and n. 2). See also Natural selection, pp. 65, 71, Origin, p. 271, and Correspondence vols. 8 and 9. See DAR 157a, p. 1, for CD’s experimental notes on hollyhocks. CD had recently encouraged Charles William Crocker to undertake hollyhock experiments (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from C. W. Crocker, [before 13 March 1862], and this volume, letter from C. W. Crocker, 1 May 1863).
Turner’s reply has not been found, but information from him on crossing in hollyhocks is given in Variation 2: 107–8.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Asks correspondent whether, when growing hollyhocks, he finds it necessary to space out the different varieties to prevent crossing and thus to obtain true seed [see Variation 2: 108].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Turner
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 96: 12
Physical description
Adraft 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3886,” accessed on 24 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11