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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Kingsley   14 June 1865

Eversley Rectory, | Winchfield.

June 14/65

My dear Sir

I have been reading with delight & instruction your paper on Climbing plants.1

Your explanation of an old puzzle of mine—Lath. Nissolia—is a masterpiece.2 Nothing can be more conclusive. That of the filament at the petiole-end of the Bean is equally satisfactory.3

Ah that I could begin to study Nature anew, now that you have made it to me a live thing; not a dead collection of names4

But my work lies elsewhere now.5 Such work nevertheless helps mine at every turn. It is better that the division of labour shd. be complete, & that each man should do only one thing, while he looks on, as he finds time, at what others are doing, & so gets laws from other sciences wh. he can apply—as I do—to my own.

Yours ever faithfully | C Kingsley.


‘Climbing plants’ was published on 12 June 1865 in a double issue of the Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany). No presentation list for this paper has been found.
CD’s explanation of Lathyrus nissolia as a case of reversion (it has grass-like leaves instead of tendrils like other species of Lathyrus) is in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 114–15; see also Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, [27 January 1864] and n. 23, and this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, 3 February 1865 and n. 12.
CD’s discussion of the suppression of tendrils in the common bean is in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 114.
Kingsley was a keen amateur natural historian who had lectured and written on the subject (see, for example, C. Kingsley 1855 and 1890). He had first written to CD praising Origin in 1859 (see letter from Charles Kingsley, 30 May 1865 and n. 2).
Kingsley was rector of Eversley, Hampshire, became chaplain to the queen in 1859, and was appointed professor of modern history at Cambridge University in 1860 (DNB).


‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

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

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


CD’s paper on "Climbing plants" [J. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Bot.) 9 (1867): 1–118] has made nature come alive for CK.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Kingsley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 33
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4861,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13