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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Alphonse de Candolle   31 January [1863]1

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 31st

My dear Sir

I thank you for so kindly writing to me; & many parts of your letter have interested me much.—2 I take a keen interest in progress of species-question, & am delighted to hear of the Count Saporta’s views.—3 I really think that I believe in as much migration as even you believe in, & as shown in your admirable great work;4 only I do not believe nearly so much in continental extensions & I believe more (not very much more, I begin to suspect, & it pleases me greatly) than you do in modification in form.—5 That is good remark on melons, & I shall probably use it, in conjunction with improvement of the pear.6 Also many thanks about oranges: I confess that I thought you rather too sceptical about Macfayden’s statement in W. Indies; I must change my tone.—7

what you say about antiquity of man, has occurred to me: it must make considerable difference in our views on domesticated animals & plants.— How very interesting the Swiss discoveries of the old Lake habitations have been; but I know only Rütimeyers admirable essay,8 in which there is some little on Plants by Dr Christ:9 I am very much obliged for your hint & must enquire; but I find German very slow reading & it wastes much time.10 I received a few days ago an Address from New Zealand, & traces of Prehistoric man have been found there!11

I thank you for your Photograph, which I am glad to add to some others.12 I have never had a proper “carte photographique” taken of myself; but I enclose one done 2 or 3 years ago by my son, if worth your acceptance.13

I am almost tired of my present big book (though a mere trifle to yours) on Variation under Domestication; for I have not sufficient knowledge to treat the plant-part well, but I have done so much that I will finish it.—14

Pray believe me, my dear Sir, with my best thanks & sincere respect.— | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to J. F. J. von Haast 1862a (see letter to Julius von Haast, 22 January 1863). See also n. 2, below.
Candolle’s letter has not been found. However, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 January [1863].
Gaston de Saporta. In the letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 January [1863], CD stated that he had just received ‘another letter from A. Decandolle’ in which Candolle reported that on the question of mutability, Saporta ‘goes the whole hog’.
A. de Candolle 1855. CD’s heavily annotated copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 106–53).
In Variation, CD discussed the improvement of cultivated foods over hundreds of years through ‘long-continued selection’, reporting (Variation 2: 215–16): Alphonse De Candolle informs me that he has lately seen on an ancient mosaic at Rome a representation of the melon; and as the Romans, who were such gourmands, are silent on this fruit, he infers that the melon has been greatly ameliorated since the classical period.
CD refers to James Macfadyen’s assertion that oranges in Jamaica were either sweet or bitter, depending on the soil in which they were grown (Macfadyen 1830, p. 302, and Macfadyen 1831, p. 111). In Variation 1: 335, CD thought Macfadyen’s claim an error because Candolle had since ‘received accounts from Guiana, the Antilles, and Mauritius, that in these countries sweet oranges faithfully transmit their character’.
Rütimeyer 1861. There is a heavily annotated copy of Rütimeyer 1861 in the Darwin Library–CUL; CD cited this work extensively in Variation (see Marginalia 1: 718–26).
CD refers to Konrad Hermann Heinrich Christ, the plant geographer who wrote a section in Rütimeyer 1861 on plant remains found in the Swiss lake-dwellings (pp. 224–9). The dwellings had been villages built on piles above lakes and were thought to date from the Stone Age (see also C. Lyell 1863a, pp. 17–26). CD quoted a passage of Christ’s in Variation 1: 318.
The reference has not been identified.
J. F. J. von Haast 1862a. See letter to Julius von Haast, 22 January 1863.
CD’s photograph of Candolle has not been found.
William Erasmus Darwin’s photographic portrait of his father, made on 11 April 1861, is reproduced as the frontispiece to volume 9 of the Correspondence.
CD refers in part to the chapters in Variation on cultivated plants and bud-variation (Variation 1: 305–411), which he completed by 23 January 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II, and this volume, Appendix II). Variation was published in two volumes in 1868.


Candolle, Alphonse de. 1855. Géographie botanique raisonnée ou exposition des faits principaux et des lois concernant la distribution géographique des plantes de l’époque actuelle. 2 vols. Paris: Victor Mason. Geneva: J. Kessmann.

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

Macfadyen, James. 1830. Some remarks on the species of the genus Citrus, which are cultivated in Jamaica. Botanical miscellany 1: 295–304.

Macfadyen, James. 1831. Sketch of a short botanical excursion in Jamaica. Botanical miscellany 2: 110–21.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Rütimeyer, Ludwig. 1861. Die Fauna der Pfahlbauten in der Schweiz. Untersuchungen über die Geschichte der wilden und der Haus-Säugethiere von Mittel-Europa. Basel, Switzerland: Bahnmaier’s Buchhandlung (C. Detloff).

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


CD thinks that he believes in as much migration as AdeC, only he does not believe nearly so much in continental extensions. CD also believes more in modification in form though he suspects the difference is not so great.

Thanks AdeC for information on melons, oranges,

and Swiss lake-habitation discoveries.

CD is almost tired of his book on variation under domestication, for his knowledge is insufficient to treat the plant part well, but he has done so much that he will finish it.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alphonse de Candolle
Sent from
Source of text
Archives de la famille de Candolle (private collection)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3957,” accessed on 3 February 2023,

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