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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Rivers   [3 February 1863]

You should live near a large nursery & your mind would find abundance of food.

when I first read the “Origin” I was amused at what I had observed with regard to “selection”.1 A patch of seedling trees if not transplanted seems to illustrate this (but perhaps I am taking a wrong view)   the first year they are all equal   in two or three years several will have pushed up—not confined to the outside of the patch which is easily accounted for by their finding more food— at the end of five or six years one or two or three will have smothered nearly all their brethren & then one alone will often be left. I have observed in what we call “pans” (flat pots of seedling) of pines which have stood a few years in one place forgotten the first year all equal the second & third a few more adventurous have made roots through the holes at the bottom & at last one gigantic fellow spreads over all & the underlings die.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Th. Rivers. Feb. 3d— 1863’ ink


CD sent Rivers a copy of Origin in January 1863 to thank him for his assistance with the chapter on bud-variation for Variation (see letter to Thomas Rivers, 15 January [1863]). Rivers had first read Origin several years earlier (see letter from Thomas Rivers, 21 January 1863).


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.


His observations of "selection" in growth of seedling trees.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Rivers
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 46.1: 95
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3965,” accessed on 4 August 2021,

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