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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   9 June [1867]1

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

June 9th

My dear Lyell

I write one line to say that certainly the variability & passage of Primrose into Cowslip must be given up.— I have this summer proved that the common oxlip is a natural Hybrid between the two; but the Bardfield oxlip, which occurs almost only in Essex (the P. elatior of Jacquin) is a perfectly distinct & good [&] third species.—2

I am very glad you like H. Parker’s article.—3

I want much talk over N. British Review & to have the real pleasure of seeing you & Lady Lyell.— We shall be up, I believe, on 15th, & if you do not hear to contrary, stomacho volente I will come to your breakfast on Monday 17th.—4

Nothing was enclosed in your note about Primula.—5

Yours affect. | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Charles Lyell, 1 June [1867], and by the reference to the North British Review (see n. 4, below).
CD had been conducting experiments since 1862 to establish that the primrose (Primula vulgaris) and the cowslip (P. veris) were distinct species, and to investigate the relationship between them and the common oxlip (now P. vulgaris x P. veris) and the Bardfield oxlip (P. elatior). He published the results of his crosses in ‘Specific difference in Primula, pp. 443–7, and Forms of flowers, pp. 55–75. His notes, dated between 1862 and 1867, are in DAR 157a: 75–7 and DAR 108. See Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 June [1864] and n. 17, and Correspondence vol. 13, letter from L. C. Wedgwood, [April–May 1865?] and n. 3. Lyell included this information from CD in the tenth edition of his Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1867–8, 2: 324–5). He may have wanted to cite the results of observers who claimed to have raised cowslips, oxlips, and a primrose from the seed of the same plant, and thus ranked the three as varieties. CD discussed these claims in ‘Specific difference in Primula, pp. 440–2, and Forms of flowers, pp. 61–2. See also Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Charles Lyell, 11 October [1859] and nn. 12 and 13.
CD refers to his nephew Henry Parker and to [Parker] 1862. See letter to Charles Lyell, 1 June [1867] and n. 2. The letter in which Lyell commented on [Parker] 1862 has not been found.
CD refers to [Jenkin] 1867, an article published in the North British Review for June 1867; see also letter from Charles Kingsley, 6 June 1867. He also refers to Mary Elizabeth Lyell. The Darwins were in London from 17 to 24 June (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix II)). No record has been found of a meeting with the Lyells. ‘Stomacho volente’: stomach willing; an invented phrase based on Deo volente, God willing. CD’s stomach problems often prevented him from going into company; see Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix IV.
Lyell’s letter has not been found.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 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.

[Jenkin, Henry Charles Fleeming.] 1867. The origin of species. North British Review 46: 277–318.

Lyell, Charles. 1867–8. Principles of geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants considered as illustrative of geology. 10th edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

[Parker, Henry.] 1862. The Edinburgh review on the supernatural. Saturday Review, 15 November 1862, pp. 589–90.

‘Specific difference in Primula’: On the specific difference between Primula veris, Brit. Fl. (var. officinalis of Linn.), P. vulgaris, Brit. Fl. (var. acaulis, Linn.), and P. elatior, Jacq.; and on the hybrid nature of the common oxlip. With supplementary remarks on naturally produced hybrids in the genus Verbascum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 19 March 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 10 (1869): 437–54.


Discusses hybridisation in cowslip and primrose.

Mentions proposed visit.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.329)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5566,” accessed on 7 June 2023,

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