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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Daniel Oliver   17 September [1864]1

Down Bromley Kent

Sept. 17th

Dear Oliver

I am very glad that you will notice Scott’s paper in N. H. Review, for I really think it well deserves it.2

I am rather ashamed how paltry my enclosed references are; but I think they refer you to the more important points.3 I shd. add as of some value the general confirmation of the meaning of what I call “reciprocal Dimorphism”.4

I send a copy of Scott’s paper, but have not marked it, as with my references, this would be superfluous.—

Dear Oliver | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Scott 1864a (see n. 2, below), and by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864. CD refers to Scott 1864a and to the Natural History Review. For a discussion of CD’s role in encouraging John Scott to research and write Scott 1864a, see the letter from John Scott, 7 January [1864] and nn. 3 and 4.
The enclosure has not been found; however, for an indication of its likely contents, see the enclosure to the letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864], and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 September [1864]. See also the brief review of Scott 1864a published in the issue of the Natural History Review for October 1864, p. 640.
CD defined ‘reciprocal dimorphism’ as the existence in a species of two (or more) forms of flower, with the pollen of each form adapted for ‘reciprocal union’ with the other form, that is, to favour the intercrossing of distinct individuals (see ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula, pp. 91–2 (Collected papers 2: 59)). CD had been studying this phenomenon since 1861, particularly with reference to Primula, Linum, and Lythrum salicaria (see Correspondence vols. 9–11, and this volume, Appendix III). See also ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula, ‘Two forms in species of Linum, and ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria. CD published a full account of his study of dimorphism in plants in Forms of flowers. For CD’s views on the origin and functional importance of sexual dimorphism in evolution, see Ghiselin 1969 and Hodge 1985. For CD’s interest in Scott’s work on Primula as confirming his own conclusions on reciprocal dimorphism, see the letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864] and n. 15.


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.]

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

Ghiselin, Michael T. 1969. The triumph of the Darwinian method. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Hodge, M. J. S. 1985. Darwin as a lifelong generation theorist. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).

‘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.]

‘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.]


Glad that Oliver is to review John Scott’s paper in the Natural History Review (Scott 1864a). Apologises that his enclosed references (now missing) are so paltry.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Daniel Oliver
Source of text
DAR 185: 119

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4615F,” accessed on 27 February 2021,

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