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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. E. Darwin to W. E. Darwin   [18 May 1864]1


Papa cares very much more about seeing the Rhanmus than the Menyanthes— it flowers in May & Papa must see a male & female flower off a different bush. It is because there is an American one which is Dimorphic.2 He hopes you wont hate him.

He sends these two more packets of red cowslip as he believes they are the last   they have not much pollen— as they are to be measured dry you can do them when you like.3

Dear Wm.—

Perhaps the boys come on Sat. but it is not known for certain—4 I dont think we shall let you have the horse— Papa was very well yesterday   today he looks baddish & pale but has been working.

No more today as I am very busy

Yours ever | H. E. D.

Mack5 a little worse.


The date is established by the references to Menyanthes and the red cowslip in this letter, the letter from Emma Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [17 May 1864], and the letters from W. E. Darwin, 18 May [1864] and [19 May 1864].
For CD’s query regarding Menyanthes, see the letter from Emma Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [17 May 1864]. No recent reference to Rhamnus, the buckthorn, has been found in CD’s correspondence. In 1861, CD asked Joseph Dalton Hooker where he could purchase a specimen after Asa Gray wrote that a North American species (Rhamnus lanceolatus) was dimorphic (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from Asa Gray, 11 October 1861, and second letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 November [1861]; experimental note in DAR 111: A19; and Forms of flowers, pp. 295–6). The only correspondence and notes mentioning William’s collection of the genus are from 1866 (see, for example, letter to W. E. Darwin, 20 June [1866] (Calendar no. 5128), and notes in DAR 109: A41–2). CD discussed several Rhamnus species in Forms of flowers, pp. 293–7, 307, and 308. His notes on the genus are in DAR 109: A41–3, 50, and DAR 111.
George Howard, Francis, and Leonard Darwin were pupils at Clapham Grammar School in South London in May 1864 (see letter from H. E. Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [16 March 1864], n. 3). Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242) for Saturday 21 May 1864: ‘Boys from school’.


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

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

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.


CD would like to see Rhamnus, as an American species is dimorphic.

Sends red cowslip pollen to be measured.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henrietta Emma Darwin/Henrietta Emma Litchfield
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 118
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4442,” accessed on 5 March 2024,

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