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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   1 May [1863]1


May 1

My Dear Father

I have read your Linum paper and was very much interested in it, it seems more dimorphic than primula, at all events there are more complicated adaptations to produce it; what an odd thing it is the homomorphic pollen tubes penetrating in one case and not in the other, it looks as if the ones that did not penetrate had at last found out it was no use doing so, and the others had not had experience enough yet.2

I just tell you to make your mouth water that I have found another case of dimorphism as perfect and regular as primula, I shall not tell you any more about it till I can tell you about the proportion and send you the plant, & at the same time feel up to take an affidavit that I am not mistaken, I only tell you now just to whet your appetite.3

Poor Mrs. Ashworth’s death was a most sudden one, Mr Keele told me he never saw such a case, on Friday afternoon the fever had left her, and she was going on perfectly well, and they were all easy about her, so that they had not sent for her father and Mother at all; but at 8 o’clock a sudden change came on of congestion and she died at 4 perfectly in her senses & calm without any suffering, and she spoke out a little will which Mr Keele took down and then she signed her name or made a mark and died. I do’nt know when I can get away, as they are moving at once from Heathfield and in a great state of confusion.4

And did you ever hear of such a piece of ill luck on coming back from the funeral yesterday they found Evelyn5 laid up with hooping cough and measles.

Your affect son | W. E. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to CD’s paper on ‘Two forms in species of Linum (see n. 2, below).
CD’s paper ‘Two forms in species of Linum had been published on 13 May 1863; he had sent an advance copy to William (see this volume, Supplement, letter from W. E. Darwin, 22 April [1863] and n. 3).
CD’s paper ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula was published in 1862. CD was interested in finding further examples of dimorphic species after discovering that dimorphic flowers in Primula and Linum were an adaptation for reciprocal fertilisation.
Elizabeth Ashworth, sister of Ellen Atherley, died on 25 April 1863; her medical attendant was probably Charles Patton Keele. Her parents were Arthur and Sophia Emily Frederick.
Evelyn George Hammond Atherley, son of William’s banking partner George Atherley.


‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

‘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.]


Discusses dimorphism in linum and primula. Describes death of Mrs. Ashworth.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 15)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4135F,” accessed on 25 October 2021,

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