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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Lydia Ernestine Becker   30 March 1864

Altham | Accrington

March 30th. 1864

Dear Sir

You were so indulgent to me when I troubled you with a communication last summer1 that I presume on your kindness so far as to take the liberty of offering for your acceptance the accompanying little book in the hope that you may look kindly on my endeavour to make plain by familiar language and illustration the general principles of the subject to which it relates.2 It is intended chiefly for young ladies but I trust this circumstance alone would not cause you to consider it beneath your notice,3 for it is precisely those who have attained the greatest eminence in the pursuit of science who might be expected to feel pleasure in the thought that others however far removed from them, should be led to share in some degree, the happiness which the study of nature is capable of affording. Therefore I working for those who have yet their alphabet to learn, venture to hope that my attempt may find favour from you—at the other end of the scale—who have done more than any other to arouse general interest in the science you love so well and who have made plain for future explorers— the path in which henceforward they must all proceed—

I remain dear Sir | yours respectfully | Lydia E. Becker


Becker sent several letters to CD in the spring and summer of 1863 discussing dimorphism in plants that she had been observing and collecting (see Correspondence vol. 11). CD was interested in her observations and sent her a copy of a paper, probably ‘Two forms in species of Linum (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 11, letter from L. E. Becker, 31 July [1863]); only one of CD’s replies to her has been found (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to L. E. Becker, 2 August [1863]).
Becker’s book was entitled Botany for novices: a short outline of the natural system of the classification of plants. By L.E.B. (Becker 1864). She wrote that the book was directed to ‘those persons … who entertain the groundless fear that they cannot learn much of the science without burdening the memory with a great many long, hard names of plants, which will leave them, after the trouble of learning them, little wiser than before’ (Becker 1864, pp. iii–iv, quoted in Shteir 1996, p. 227).
Although Becker intended Becker 1864 primarily for young women, nothing in the text makes this explicit; as a leader of the woman’s suffrage movement, Becker was an outspoken advocate of a scientific education for women based on a unified standard and not determined by gender (Shteir 1996, pp. 228–30).


Becker, Lydia Ernestine. 1864. Botany for novices: a short outline of the natural system of classification of plants. By L. E. B. London: Whittaker & Co.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Shteir, Ann B. 1996. Cultivating women, cultivating science. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

‘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.]


Sends CD a copy of her book [Botany for novices (1864?)], intended to encourage the young, especially ladies, to study nature.

Letter details

Letter no.
Lydia Ernestine Becker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 112
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4441,” accessed on 31 January 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12