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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   22 April [1863]1


April 22.

My Dear Father,

I sent off this morning a bit of Corydal to you.2

I examined 12 a dozen or more this morning, and I think the pistil certainly does spring forward, though very little in young flowers; and I think the pistil looks to spring foward more than it does as it is pulled back by the cap just at first. 

  in one or two flowers which were old and I suppose had not been visited it seemed to spring forward with quite a jerk exactly into the guiding valley to nectary, and it seemed to fill it so completely that after the flower had gone off and the pistil was in the furrow I should not think the nectary could be visited again except sideways or inside the pistil.

Thanks for your Linum paper3   I have not had time to read it yet; I am going on Sunday to Cowes to look for Anchusa when I will look at the stamens4

Thank Etty for her letter.5 When is George expected home6

Your affect son | W E Darwin.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. E. Darwin, 1 May [1863] (this volume, Supplement).
CD’s interest in Corydalis (the genus of fumeworts) may have related to his investigation of pelorism in some species of Corydalis, and whether it was adaptive or a case of reversion (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to M. T. Masters, 6 April [1863]). CD had completed a draft of the chapter in Variation in which he discussed Corydalis in relation to reversion (Variation 2: 58–9) on 1 April 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II). William’s observational notes and sketches relating to Corydalis claviculata and C. lutea are in his botanical notebook (DAR 117: 61–3) and his botanical sketchbook (DAR 186: 43, pp. 48–9).
‘Two forms in species of Linum was read before the Linnean Society on 5 February and published in the society’s journal on 13 May 1863 (General index to the Journal of the Linnean Society, p. vi). William’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for ‘Two forms in species of Linum (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix IV).
William did not go to Cowes on the Isle of Wight until Sunday 3 May 1863, when he collected fifty-two plants of what he took to be Anchusa officinalis (alkanet or bugloss; see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from W. E. Darwin, 4 May [1863]).
Henrietta Emma Darwin’s letter has not been found.
In a letter to William of [17 March 1863], Emma Darwin had reported that George Howard Darwin was staying on to ‘grind’ at Clapham Grammar School (DAR 219.1: 71); according to Emma’s diary (DAR 242), George returned from school on 23 April 1863.


‘Two forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]


Sent off Corydalis. Observations on Corydalis pistils.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 12)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4120F,” accessed on 7 June 2023,

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