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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Robert Caspary   4 March 1866

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

Mar. 4. 1866

My dear Sir

I am extremely obliged to you for your kind letter & photograph, which I am very glad to possess.1 I enclose one of myself the only one I have, taken by one of my sons.2 I am also very grateful for the two papers & for that received yesterday of the Amsterdam Congress. These papers will be of the highest possible interest to me; but I have as yet read only that on the rose, for I am a very poor German scholar, & I suffer much from weak health.3

One ought not to wish on any side in Science, but I cannot help wishing to believe in the graft & stock producing buds with blended characters. Perhaps this very wish makes me too cautious, for I am not fully persuaded by your rose case; I hope your longer paper will have a more convincing effect.4 In a work which I hope to publish this autumn “on Domesticated animals & cultivated plants”, I have a chapter devoted to the same subject as your paper.5 I shall be particularly glad to read your criticisms on my view that no plant is perpetually self-fertilized. I still retain faith in this view & believe that the exceptional cases will some day be explained.6

With cordial thanks & sincere respect I remain | my dear Sir yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin


Caspary enclosed his photograph with his letter of 25 February 1866. The photograph has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
CD probably refers to a copy of the photograph taken by his son William Erasmus Darwin in April or May 1864; see Correspondence vol. 12, frontispiece, and letter from W. E. Darwin, [19 May 1864] and n. 8. CD continued to send this photograph to correspondents during 1865 (Correspondence vol. 13).
The paper ‘of the Amsterdam Congress’ was Caspary 1865a; see letter to Robert Caspary, 21 February [1866] and n. 2. The paper ‘on the rose’ was Caspary 1865c; see letter from Robert Caspary, 25 February 1866 and n. 4. The third paper was Caspary 1865b; see letter from Robert Caspary, 25 February 1866 and n. 3.
Caspary 1865c described a hybrid rose that displayed both blended characters and those of the parental forms (see letter from Robert Caspary, 25 February 1866 and n. 4). CD wrote on the front of his copy of Caspary 1865c: ‘I cannot yet tell whether to put amongst sports or effects of grafting’. For CD’s interest in the blending of characteristics of scion and stock, see also the letter to Robert Caspary, 21 February [1866], n. 3. Caspary 1865a contained a more extensive discussion of graft hybrids than Caspary 1865c.
CD referred to Caspary 1865a and 1865c in his chapter ‘On bud variation, and on certain anomalous modes of reproduction and variation’, in Variation (see Variation 1: 380, 388–9). Variation was published in 1868.
See letter from Robert Caspary, 25 February 1866 and n. 3. CD reiterated his views on the advantages of crossing in Variation 2: 174–6.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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


Thanks RC for photograph and for papers, which are of highest interest to CD. He is not fully convinced about the rose by RC’s graft-hybrid paper [Bull. Congr. Int. Bot. & Hortic. Amsterdam (1865): 65–80]. Still retains faith in his own view that no plant is perpetually self-fertilised.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Johann Xaver Robert (Robert) Caspary
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 92: A38–9
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5026,” accessed on 22 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14