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Darwin Correspondence Project

To M. T. Masters   20 September [1864]1

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

Sept 20th.—

My dear Sir

I am much obliged for your note2 & the more so, as I was curious about the monsters, but did not like to trouble you by asking for information.

As far as I am concerned I shd. be most glad for you to print Asa Gray’s note,3 but perhaps it would be hardly right to do so without permission. Will you write? or, if you think it worth while, I will write & ask? Perhaps you will think it not worth writing about, but as you like.—

That is a very curious & inexplicable point, about the tendency of certain species more frequently to become monstrous than other species.—4

With many thanks | My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from M. T. Masters, 19 September 1864.
Letter from M. T. Masters, 19 September 1864.
See letter from M. T. Masters, 19 September 1864 and n. 10. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 September [1864].
CD discussed this point in Variation in relation to peloric flowers, noting that, while the plants of many families occasionally become peloric, ‘many more cases have been observed in the Labiatæ and Scrophulariaceæ, than in any other order’. Citing Moquin-Tandon 1841, CD observed that the genus Linaria, a member of the Scrophulariaceae, was particularly prone to pelorism (Variation 2: 60–1). There is a heavily annotated copy of Moquin-Tandon 1841 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 598–601). Pelorism was of interest to CD as a phenomenon that he interpreted as indicating a partial return or reversion to the structure of the ancient progenitor of the group. See also letter from W. H. Harvey, 19 May 1864 and n. 4.


Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Moquin-Tandon, Horace Bénédict Alfred. 1841. Eléments de tératologie végétale, ou, histoire abrégée des anomalies de l’organisation dans les végétaux. Paris: P.-J. Loss.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


CD sends thanks for MTM’s note on monsters. Adds comment on MTM’s point that some species become monstrous more frequently than others.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Maxwell Tylden Masters
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4618,” accessed on 24 February 2020,

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