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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Cresy   27 April 1863

Spring Gardens

27 April ’63

My dear Sir

Many thanks for the copy of your paper on Linum which I should have acknowledged before but for pressure of business—1 What a wonderful field for observation you continue to open up—infusing new life into the old dry bones of systematic botany— I can’t think how it is the popularisers have not got hold of it yet, there seems such a fund of resource for them but I suppose they cant grasp the idea so as to feel their feet in using it—

I met with a curious passage in an old free thinker Francis Sanchez who lived in the latter part of the sixteenth century— the book is a rare one entitled “Quod nihil scitur” Frankfurt 1618—2 Mackay the author of “Religious development of Greeks & Hebrews”3 shewed it me among a lot of rare books he had been buying & I made a note of the following—

“In arboribus eadem mixtio cernitur et plantis aliis, ut in caulorapo malo persicis, amigdalo persicis et pluribus aliis quibus insitione media acquiritur natura inter insitum et id cui inseritur si denique addas mutationis specieum ut ex tritico saepe lolium et ex lolio triticum quandoque et ex secala avena fit”—4

I find I was right in telling you the London Chatham & Dover had withdrawn their Brighton line—5 I have marked in pencil the two SE lines which are in progress New Cross to Dartford & New Cross to Tunbridge as well as London Chatham & Dover Sevenoaks branch on a map which I will forward you tomorrow6—together with the most recent map I can get of the lines round London— they are two long to go by post so I will send them by rail addressed to you at Bromley Station to be called for—

How did your son George get on at Cambridge7   I heard he & young Carpmael went up together but did not see Carpmael this morning so have not heard the result—8

Yours very truly | E Cresy

C Darwin Esq—


‘Two forms in species of Linum was read before the Linnean Society on 5 February 1863. Cresy’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for this paper (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix IV).
Francisco Sanches (Franciscus Sanchez) wrote Quod nihil scitur [That nothing is known] in 1581 (Sanchez 1581), but his European reputation was established by the 1618 edition (Sanchez 1618). See Sanches 1988, p. 21.
The references are to Robert William Mackay and Mackay 1850.
In Sanches 1988, pp. 126–7 and 230, the passage is translated: We can see the same kind of mixing in trees and other plants, as for example in kohlrabi, in peaches and almonds, and several others, in which by means of grafting the plant acquires a nature intermediate between that of the graft and that of the root-stock, on to which it is grafted. If, again, you add changes in species, as darnel often comes from wheat and sometimes wheat from darnel, and wild-oats from rye
Cresy may be referring to a conversation that took place on 7 April 1863 when Cresy visited Down House for lunch (see Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Cresy refers to railway lines from New Cross station in east London to several Kent villages; the fold-out map in Bradshaw’s railway guide 1863 (see also ibid., p. 28) displays a dotted line from London towards Brighton through Tunbridge Wells, to the Sussex village of Uckfield, indicating that the line was still under construction. The map sent to CD has not been found.
In 1863, George Howard Darwin competed unsuccessfully for an entrance scholarship at St John’s College, Cambridge (DNB). See letter from George Howard Darwin to Emma Darwin, [15 April 1863], in DAR 251: 2232, and letter from Charles and Emma Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [4 May 1863]. See also letter to Edward Cresy, 13 May [1863].
The reference is to one of the sons of William Carpmael, a colleague of Cresy’s at the Metropolitan Board of Works (Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers 30: 430). The son may have been Ernest Carpmael, who attended Clapham Grammar School, London, with George, and who evidently competed for a St John’s College scholarship at the same time as George (Alum. Cantab., DNB, Eagle 3: 356). See letter from George Howard Darwin to Emma Darwin, [15 April 1863], in DAR 251: 2232.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Bradshaw’s railway guide: Bradshaw’s railway almanack, directory, shareholders’ guide, and manual. London: W. J. Adams. Manchester: Bradshaw & Blacklock. 1848–62. Bradshaw’s railway manual, shareholders’ guide, and official directory. London: W. J. Adams. Manchester: Bradshaw & Blacklock. 1863–1923.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Mackay, Robert William. 1850. The progress of the intellect, as exemplified in the religious development of the Greeks and Hebrews. 2 vols. London: John Chapman.

Sanches, Francisco. 1988. That nothing is known (Quod nihil scitur). Introduction, notes, and bibliography by Elaine Limbrick. Latin text established, annotated, and translated by Douglas F. S. Thomson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sanchez, Franciscus. [Sanches, Francisco.] 1581. Quod nihil scitur. Lyons: Antonius Gryphius.

Sanchez, Franciscus. [Sanches, Francisco.] 1618. De multum nobili et prima universali scientia Quod nihil scitur. Frankfurt: Ioannis Bernerus.

‘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.]


CD’s Linum paper [Collected papers 2: 93–105].

Sending up-to-date railway map of southern region.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Cresy, Jr
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Metropolitan Board of Works
Source of text
DAR 161: 241
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4130,” accessed on 20 November 2019,

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