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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Friedrich Hildebrand   28 July [1863]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

July 28th.

Dear and Respected Sir

Your paper on Orchids seems to me extremely curious & valuable, & has interested me greatly.2 But I grieve to say that I doubt whether I shall succeed in getting it read or published in England. Our Societies have a fixed rule not to allow a paper to be read, which will be published elsewhere.— I sent your paper to one of our best Journals: the Editor wrote to me that he thought it very valuable, but would not publish it because it was to appear in Bot. Zeitung.3 I have now sent it to another Journal & you may rely I will do what I can; but our Journals choose to publish original articles or to make their own abstracts & Reviews.—4 Your paper has explained much to me, that I could not understand. I sometimes saw the ovules & sometimes I could not, & in this latter case I attributed the fact to my want of experience & skill. I saw the ovules best in the hot-house Goodyera discolor from Brazil. Other facts, besides what you tell me, make me fearful that I have made a great mistake about Acropera and Catasetum; but I shall soon have some flowers of latter genus open in my own hot-house.—5

And now let me thank you for your very kind letter. I am extremely much pleased to hear that you have been looking at the manner of fertilisation of your native Orchids, & still more pleased to hear that you have been experimenting on Linum.6 I much hope that you may publish the results of these experiments; because I was told that the most eminent French Botanists in Paris said that my paper on Primula was the work of imagination, & that the case was so improbable they did not believe in my results.—7

With my thanks & sincere respect | I remain Dear Sir, | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I have just heard that the Editor of the Annals & Mag. of N. History (which is a good periodical) will very gladly publish your “interesting paper”.— in the September number.8


The year is established by the reference to Hildebrand 1863b.
CD refers to an English abstract of Hildebrand 1863a. See letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 16 July 1863 and n. 2.
See letter from Daniel Oliver, 20 July 1863. In his letter to Oliver of 18 July [1863], CD had asked whether the abstract of Hildebrand’s paper might be published in the Natural History Review, of which Oliver was one of the botanical editors.
CD had sent the English abstract of Hildebrand’s paper to Annals and Magazine of Natural History (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 July [1863] and n. 8). See also n. 8, below.
‘Dimorphic condition in Primula. The reference has not been traced, but see also Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Asa Gray, 23[–4] July [1862]. CD cited the results of Hildebrand’s experiments on Primula (Hildebrand 1864) in ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria, p. 180 n. (Collected papers 2: 129–30, n. 9).
The letter has not been found. The English abstract of Hildebrand’s paper appeared in the September issue of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Hildebrand 1863b). The editors were Prideaux John Selby, Charles Cardale Babington, John Edward Gray, and William Francis.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

‘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.]

Hildebrand, Friedrich. 1864. Experimente über den Dimorphismus von Linum perenne und Primula sinensis. Botanische Zeitung 22: 1–5.

‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’: On the sexual relations of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 June 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 169–96. [Collected papers 2: 106–31.]


Comments on FH’s paper ["Fruchtbildung der Orchideen", Bot. Ztg. 21 (1863): 329–33, 337–45]. Annals and Magazine of Natural History will publish it in September [3d ser. 12 (1863): 169–74].

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4255,” accessed on 23 October 2020,

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