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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Friedrich Hildebrand   5 January [1868]1

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

Jan 5

My dear Sir

I thank you for your letter which has quite delighted me.2 I sincerely congratulate you on your success in making a graft-hybrid, for I believe it to be a most important observation.3 I trust that you will publish full details on this subject & on the direct action of pollen: I hope that you will be so kind as to send me a copy of your paper.4 If I had succeeded in making a graft-hybrid of the potato, I had intended to raise seedlings from the graft hybrid & from the two parent-forms (excluding insects) & carefully compare the offspring.5 This however wd be difficult on account of the sterility & variability of the potato. When in the course of a few months you receive my 2nd vol. you will see why I think these two subjects so important.6 They have led me to form a hypothesis on the various forms of reproduction, development, inheritance &c. which hypothesis I believe will ultimately be accepted, though how it will be now received I am very doubtful.7

Once again I congratulate you on your success and remain | dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I hope you will publish your facts about the apple trees.8


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 2 January 1868.
See letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 2 January 1868 and nn. 3–6. An annotated copy of Hildebrand 1868a is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
In 1867, CD tried to repeat experiments by Robert Trail, who had succeeded in producing a hybrid potato with mottled colouring by joining together two halves of different varieties (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 April [1867] and n. 3). By excluding insects, CD would have prevented sexual hybridisation resulting from cross-pollination.
CD had arranged for Hildebrand to be sent a copy of the first volume of the German translation of Variation (Carus trans. 1868). See letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 2 January 1868.
CD discussed graft hybrids and the influence of the male element on the female element in Variation 1: 387–405; he argued that these and other anomalous forms of reproduction could be explained by his hypothesis of pangenesis (Variation 2: 357–404; see especially pp. 364–6).


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


Congratulates FH on graft-hybrid of potato. Importance of FH’s discovery to be discussed in Variation [2d ed., 1: 420].

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5777,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16