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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Friedrich Hildebrand   20 March [1867]1

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

March 20th.

My dear Sir

I am much obliged for your new work which I see from the woodcuts will contain very much matter new to me & of great interest.2 But I am at present so much overworked & am so poor a german scholar that I shall not be able to read it just yet, but I know it will be a real pleasure to me when I am able.3 I have sent the second copy to Prof. Oliver of Kew who reads german easily & formerly often reviewed books & perhaps still does so.4 I first thought of Prof. Asa Gray of Cambridge Massachusetts U.S. but I am not sure that he reads german, otherwise he would certainly notice it in the J. of Science.5 From turning over the pages of your book I suspect that it is very like a long chapter which I have sketched out & intended to write, but which perhaps I never should have finished & certainly could not have done it nearly as well as you.6 Perhaps you might like to hear that I have raised all three forms of Oxalis speciosa & that their mutual fertility, as far as I have tried follows exactly the same law as with Lythrum.7 I congratulate you on the completion of your new work which I fully believe will be extremely interesting to all botanists. There is nothing of consequence on your subject in the new edit. of the “Origin”.8 I will do what I can but I fear I shall not be able to help you with information for your new journal which I hope may be successful.9

My dear Sir, yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 18 March 1867.
Hildebrand had sent CD two copies of his monograph on plant sexuality (Hildebrand 1867a; see letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 18 March 1867 and n. 2).
CD was correcting proof-sheets of Variation (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 March [1867] and n. 6).
Daniel Oliver had been a botany editor of the Natural History Review, a journal that ceased publication in 1865, and had been responsible for the bibliography of phanerogamic botany that appeared regularly in the journal. He often referred CD to German and French publications on botanical topics (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 12, letter from Daniel Oliver, 14 June 1864).
Gray was a frequent contributor to the American Journal of Science and Arts.
CD did publish his work on illegitimate crosses in ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, which was read before the Linnean Society in February 1868. A modified form of the paper later became chapter 5 of Forms of flowers (pp. 188–243).
The results of CD’s experiments with Oxalis speciosa were published in Forms of flowers, pp. 175–8. CD’s notes for his experiments with O. speciosa, dated between 1864 and 1868, are in DAR 109: 10–26, 108. See also ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria.
CD refers to the fourth edition of Origin, published in November 1866. The German translation, based on this edition, appeared early in 1867 (Bronn and Carus 1867).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 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.

‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’: On the character and hybrid-like nature of the offspring from the illegitimate unions of dimorphic and trimorphic plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 20 February 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 10 (1869): 393–437.

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.

‘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.]

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


Thanks for two copies of Hildebrand’s monograph on plant sexuality (Hildebrand 1867a).

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5450F,” accessed on 27 January 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15